Conceptual Framework—An Urban Center on the East–West Axis

In world history, only a small number of cities possess as much geopolitical significance and political and cultural richness as Istanbul. It is indubitable that the system of beliefs shaping the modern world today has a special place in the historical development of this city, which stands out thanks to its geopolitical position between two continents. Religious and political expectations centered on Istanbul both in the eastern and western worlds have been presented with high idealism, and a perception of Istanbul, which takes on a different image compared to its counterparts and reinforces this image through its transformations, has made a stark emergence thereof. The saying “east of the West, west of the East” as a symbol of contrast appears to have provided the grounds for designating the status of the city molded by these political, religious, and cultural changes. Although the terms east and west are primarily used to describe directions, they can also bear a deeper meaning, as concepts that describe two historically opposing worlds. The issue seems to revolve around the origins of East and West as historical concepts. Rather than determining a borderline, proponents of an East–West dichotomy tend to provide these concepts within a different framework without having recourse to geography. The antagonisms not only laid the ground for developments contributing to an encounter between two separate poles but also revealed and determined the field of conflict. This situation brought forward the issue of whether a specific confluence between two moral circles or all ideologies existed, and Istanbul by itself serves as a specific example of this situation.1 From this point of view, it is significant to start by determining the conceptual relationship of Istanbul with both big opposing religious and ideological understandings, and the position of the city, in this sense, in order to comprehend the meaning of the terms city and imperial transformation.

First and foremost, if the historical foundations of the East–West dichotomy are taken into account from a general perspective, it can be said that this great ideological dichotomy did not initially exist considering the main frame within the axis of Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Anatolia, which constitutes the main geography of the history of mankind. From a contemporary perspective, it can be said that the emergence of this dichotomy as the East–West struggle came into being, not in the ancient periods but rather within the geography, hosting three great religions, that took humanity under its influence or was at least shaped by these concepts and ideologies within this framework.2 Various points regarding this complicated cultural conflict have been described and studied simply, and this seems to have brought forward a noticeable issue. However, determining the quality of this and its junction points constitute a significant point of departure. Although the statement “there is no East–West dichotomy; the West is the amended form of the East” is prevalent, and it is regarded as the reflection of an orientalist perspective, the nature of this case allows for the abovementioned distinction.3

Undoubtedly, there does not exist a uniform East or West; however, this does not have an impact on the existence of these concepts. With the onset of the ancient empires era, the concept of the West entered a historical process of concretization. Whereas the East already existed, formation of the West constituted a novelty. Formed as an extension of the East, in time the West gravitated toward the East and tried to penetrate it. The reaction of the East was defensive at the outset. Nevertheless, the West was confronted with retaliation through a large migration of tribes originating in Asia. The Asia–Europe conflict, grounded in the mythical and fictional History of Herodotus, can be identified as the first important phenomenon in the modern sense of the word.4 Entering into written records with the definitions of Asia and Europa, which described the distinction that emerged in the Ionian geography as of the Iliad of Homer, the divisions were probably the most significant omens of East–West differences. As a result of this geographical distinction, it would not take long for Istanbul to turn into a promising geography in conjunction with the emergence of a geographical and geopolitical understanding centered on the Black, Aegean, and Mediterranean Seas.

1- Istanbul from Historical Peninsula to the depths of Bosporus (Istanbul 2010 Agency)

2- The schema of Istanbul and Bosporus (Melling

It should not be forgotten that Asia itself has an east and a west. Whereas the east of Asia was a civilized, sedentary society, it also tried to impose its cultural values on nomads and seminomadic peoples living on the steppes and deserts of the west. Strong reactions transformed into a mutual struggle.5 Inarguably there were always other “oriented” conflicts which were not registered in historical records. As a matter of fact, antagonism has occurred in many different regions of the world in recent history. North–South conflicts and the affluent East and wild West of America serve as examples. The conflict between the wild East of Russia on the one hand, and Asia and Siberia on the other, can also be given as examples. However, these conflicts remained local and did not reach the extent of a great civilizational struggle that would have influenced the world order today, and give rise to a certain image.

The emergence of Rome as an ancient empire, the emergence of a new religion shadowed by the old for years, and annexation of a third religion, which defied the other two, determined the nature and frame of the dichotomies in question and generated developments that would provide the East–West dichotomy with a conceptual meaning. In a sense, the West would shape the concept of East, and there would be a long-lasting conflict in which the East, under the influence of the West, would paradoxically begin to regard the concept of West as the way to civilize. The division of the Roman Empire laid the grounds for a new shining urban center that would affect the East–West conflict in both its religious and political aspects. There was no other place but Istanbul, which was an alternative to the star of the West, Rome, and stood to become the sun of the East. The spiritual and intellectual power of the East of Rome, encapsulated by Christianity, was consolidated in Istanbul. The Eastern Roman Empire superseded the Roman Empire on its political downfall and disappearance. Thereafter the political center of the West was transferred to the East. The East of this East was constituted by the geography in which Islam emerged and dominated a great part of the ancient world within a short period of time. “In fact, between the first attack on Christian lands in the Eastern Mediterranean at the beginning of the 5th century and retreat of Turkish armies from the Vienna fortresses in 1683, the Christian world lived under a continuous and immediate threat.”6

In the west of the new Roman Empire, new political structures emerged that embraced Greek and Latin civilization but interpreted them in a new way deeply influenced by Christianity. Western Christianity began to rise under a strengthening papacy, and its representatives considered the Eastern Roman Empire and the world to be located east of the empire in general like civilized societies. In this way, the West developed an image of the affluent East, including belief in a Christian kingdom to the east that possessed legendary wealth, and set religious goals such as reaching this kingdom and seizing holy places.7 The goals of the Crusades, the most salient results of this, included reaching both Jerusalem, situated within the Islamic world, and the Eastern Roman Empire.8 The overt opposition constituted the main basis for the following conflicts, and led to the birth of new arguments. Resistance of Islam gained a religious aspect in parallel with the Crusades. Targeting the Eastern Roman Empire and its capital and serving as the driving spiritual force behind rapid Islamic conquests, the concept of jihad was interpreted within a stricter framework. The center of the Eastern Roman Empire was the threshold of the West for easterners, and it became the threshold of the East for westerners. Istanbul constituted the intersection of these two opposing worlds. Regarding themselves as the successors of the Roman Empire, the Latins included Istanbul in their targets and reached this target in 1204, if only for a short time. Denominational conflicts were traumatic for the eastern and western Christian worlds, although they were less intensive than in the Islamic world. Besieged from the West and East simultaneously, the Eastern Roman Empire transformed into a nearly small political formation that consisted of a center and an immediate periphery.

3- Istanbul Archeology Museum where some artifacts from the pre-Ottoman period are exhibited

Denigrated by many, the Eastern Roman Empire constituted a different political arena as a result of the emergence of the Turks who appeared on the Anatolian plateaus, categorically used Islamic motifs, and were so adept at transforming acrimony into harmony that they were able to form a new league. The target that was Istanbul was now taken over from the Arabs by the Turks. Moreover, a small principality that developed on the border of the Anatolian Seljuk Empire would become the bearer of an ideology shouldering the responsibility for the east concept nearly as a whole. In the fifteenth century, the new duty of this small principality, presented as a holy mission, was expansion toward the West.9 At this point, Istanbul was not late for re-establishing the grounds for the historical East–West dichotomy with strong emphasis. Annexing this city was the first step toward dominating both the East and West. On the other hand, losing this location amounted to the fall of the East to the West, or opening the doors leading to the West. Denigrating and scolding the Eastern Roman Empire once, the Latin and German world considered the new threat faced by the center of this empire as an opportunity for a religious unification or integration; however, they were also concerned about the quick expansion of this threatening power into the Balkans.10

For the West, the Turkish problem constituted a new argument within the framework of antagonism to the East, and determined the frame and foundations of the future West–East struggle. At the same time, the city entered into a process in which it would deeply experience Western influence. As Şinasi11 said, it became a combination of the akl-ı pirane (wisdom of the elderly) of Asia and bikr-i fikir (fresh ideas) of Europe. Historian Hammer, visiting Istanbul at the beginning of the nineteenth century, provided a detailed account of the city with the following words:

Istanbul bears the genuine charm of intellectual and commercial exchange between the East and the West. It is [like] a golden ring that destiny engraved the following words on: Sultan of both seas and continents, namely Sultan of the East and West. Thanks to the mesmerizing power of these strong words, Constantinople attained the distinct honor of becoming the New Rome and lslambol, and the capital of two empires, namely [the] Eastern Roman and Western Tatar, Byzantine and Ottoman Empires.12


Arriving in Istanbul during the first half of the sixteenth century and seeking knowledge regarding the ancient past of the city, Petrus Gyllius considered it necessary to introduce Istanbul not as a “mortal city” but as a living center as long as humankind existed. Without a doubt, this impression was related to the unique geographical position of the city and the reflection of the need to define the city as the ideal location for permanent settlement. The author’s religious and cultural perceptions of the city had an indisputable role. After all, it was the first capital of the Christians. It preserved all the characteristics that reflected Christian history to a great extent. The founder of the city named it the Eternal City (Urbs Aeterna)13 and believed that the city would never disappear. The Christian perspective was connected to the period in which the imperial foundations of the city were laid as the direct capital of the Eastern Roman Empire. However, the city already had an attractive ground before Christianity. The city’s location provided it with a unique geographical advantage, and realization of this advantage dated back to a much earlier time than its formation as a Christian city. The key elements of its unique location were the Bosphorus, which divided two continents, and the Haliç (the Golden Horn or Chrysokeras), which had an interesting geographical shape as a narrow bay. Thanks to these geographical features, it was completely natural that the first incomers chose to settle in this city, which had shores on both sides. Surrounded by the Marmara Sea along the western shore of the Haliç, the Historic Peninsula had a feature that determined the real settlement. A chain of natural obstacles suitable for its defense could be formed as well. Benefits obtained from the Haliç, a symbol of affluence and abundance, could provide food and support commercial activities. The Haliç, an 8 km long bay, provided a secure port, and thus constituted the backbone of the settlement.

4- The depiction of Emperor Constantine’s, the founder of Constantinople,
        presentation of the city model and Lustinianos’ presentation of Hagia Sophia to
        Mary (Ayasofya)

The main center of the city is the district extending from Topkapı Palace to the Hagia Sophia, today called the Sultan Ahmet district. Embellished with legends, the foundation myth asserts that the city was established as a colony of Megara (a Dorian city in central Greece). However, recent excavations have proved that the history of the settlement dates back to a much older time. Excavations were conducted in the district where the old port (Yenikapı), situated at the mouth of the stream Lycus, now known as the Bayrampaşa River, was filled with alluvium and soil. As a result, some archeological finds were proven to date back to a period approximately 7,000 years earlier than the formation of this port. Since these findings were excavated to a depth of 6.5 to 7 meters, it has been argued that the first settlement in Yenikapı dated back to 6500 BC.14 These discoveries trace the ancient history of Istanbul to an earlier (prehistoric) period and give rise to the thought that it has a settlement history (albeit not a completely continuous one) dating back to periods in which the city’s name was registered as Byzantium in written records. Most probably emerging on the foundations of this settlement, Byzantium was distinguished as a colonial city, was mentioned in historical records, and extended from Topkapı Palace (the Acropolis of the city was situated there) to the Hagia Sophia and probably into today’s Beyazıt district. According to the legend, this colony took its name from Byzas, the commander or the king.15

5- The district where the center of Constantinople was located: Hagia Sophia, Hippodrome, and the remnants of imperial palace

Obviously based on the name of a Thraco-Illyrian personality, Byzantium is mentioned in late Islamic and Turkish sources as the Arabic pronunciation of the ancient name of this city. The city existed as Byzantium for approximately one thousand years (from the eighth century BC to AD 330). This name provided the origin of the definition Byzantine Empire, which gained widespread use when referring to the state particularly between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when studies of the history of the Second Roman Empire increased. According to historical findings, there were small colonies that could be connected to the Historic Peninsula apart from settlements in today’s Istanbul. From among settlements such as Chalcedon (Kadıköy), Rhegion (Küçükçekmece), and Chrysopolis (Üsküdar), Byzantium suddenly came to the forefront thanks to its unique location.

Thus, the first imperial transformation to take place during the Roman era would emerge based on the city of Byzantium. In the second century BC, Byzantium covered an area of approximately 7 to 7.5 km. This small but strategically important city was much more favorable than all other cities known for their safety and affluence, according to the historians of the period. Moreover, the city held control of the Bosphorus, and no one could pass through there without the consent of the owners of the city. The city possessed a favorable position for controlling the transportation of commodities from and to the Black Sea. In this sense, it served as a key point for trade traffic between the Black Sea and the Aegean Sea. However, it was not so close to the attacks despite its great commercial significance. Thracians and Galatians organized attacks on the city while Byzantium agreed to pay for protection. The historical Roman road, which endowed the city with its important transport and trade, extended from the Adriatic shores to the city and enabled a lively trade.16 An anecdote conveyed by the historian Herodotus (fifth century BC) about the reason for the establishment of Chalcedon (Kadıköy) by Megarans before Byzantium, is important in manifesting how Byzantium appeared during that period: “Whereas the location of Byzantium is self-evident, the establishment of Chalcedon 17 years earlier can only be explained as blindness. Had they not been blind, they would not have selected this location over a better and more favorable one.” Herodotus appears to have been the first writer to make overt references to the advantageous location of Byzantium. These first impressions can be said to lay the key elements that almost determined the future importance of Byzantium.

Residents of ancient Byzantium were Hellenes from Middle Greece. Although the spoken and written language was Hellenic, the Dorian dialect was predominant in the city. Fishermen and salt merchants constituted the major professions in the city; fishing, agriculture, and customs duties charged to ships were among the primary sources of income. The hierarchical formation of the administrative classes and clergy endowed Byzantium, a physically developed port town, with an important infrastructure in terms of the dynamics of social life.

The city also established commercial and political ties with its neighbors. It had good relations with Chalcedon and Cyzicus as well as with Hellenistic kings and military administrators. This situation provided the city with a political basis at the same time. Byzantium maintained these good political relations during the Roman period. Moreover, the distribution area for coins minted in Byzantium clearly delineated the periphery of the city. According to records, Byzantium started minting coins long after its establishment. The first silver coins were produced in the fifth century BC; there occurred a suspension following the siege of the city by the Macedonian King Philip II (339–340 BC), while coins were minted in Byzantium as one of the cities joining the western Anatolian alliance in the fourth century BC. Byzantium was a member of the naval alliance formed by Cyzicus, Ephesus, Samos, Cnidus, Rhodos, Iasos, and Lampsacus. Some scholars have argued that this alliance was formed against the Persian fleet.17 In this case, the military importance of Byzantium emerges in connection with the western Anatolian cities and coastal towns of Marmara.

6- Coins minted in Constantinople (Coignard)

The long history of Byzantium is full of external threats. In the period preceding Roman rule, the city was left to the Persians for a short time, ruled by the Athenians for some time, and joined the Delian League against the Persians. Athens kept control of Byzantium for some time and controlled the wheat trade from the Black Sea to the Aegean Sea by ruling the city. In the Athenian–Spartan conflict (411 BC), Byzantium supported Sparta. However, this did not last long, and Byzantium came under the rule of Athens again. Upon the defeat of Athens in the Peloponnesian War, the Spartans took control of Byzantium. Athenians did not intend to retreat and re-established their superiority 10 years later. Thus they restored “democracy” in the city; however, their rule did not last long. Following this, Byzantium allied with Athens. During this period, there emerged the first serious rumors that Byzantium had successfully resisted the siege of the Macedonian King Philip II and survived this sacred crisis thanks to a savior. As the legend suggests, Philip chose a moonless dark night to attack the city. Nevertheless, a light emerged in the sky and lit up the night. As soon as dogs started barking at the extraordinary phenomenon, Byzantium soldiers awakened to the situation and took up their guard posts. This was regarded as a divine sign, and the moon deity Hecate was believed to protect the city.18 In this way Byzantium had become a city associated with legends unique to an imperial city. This was probably the beginning of Byzantine legends about a sacred force protecting the city.

7- Hippodrome and its surroundings which were the symbols of the magnificence of the Empire, the place of exhibition of the spoils of victorious wars, the place of sumptuous ceremonies and sport activities, and even the scene for rebellions

Byzantium maintained its independent status during the reign of Alexander the Great. It followed balanced policies throughout the post-Alexander period. However, it started feeling the threat constituted by the Galatians, who came to Thrace during the first half of the third century BC. The city had to extort them. Subsequently, it passed to the side of powerful Romans, recognized the imperial influence of Rome in 146 BC, and maintained independence in its domestic affairs. The Romans considered Byzantium to fall within the state of Bithynia, which covered Bursa and its surroundings. The city had an affluent and privileged status during the Roman period. Recognizing Roman rule, it was obliged to pay taxes during the reign of Emperor Claudius (AD 41–54). Commencing during the reign of Emperor Vespasian, Roman rule was rendered absolute by Emperor Hadrian (AD 117). The city witnessed a new era under Roman rule. The imperial characteristics of the city developed further in connection with new contributions. The period during which the first foundations of the city were laid started thereafter. During the Roman period, it obtained its physical features, which later became an indispensable part of the city.

Reconstruction of the city by Emperor Septimius Severus served as a turning point in the history of the city: Byzantium was the actual bearer of the burden laid by the imperial struggle between Septimius Severus and Pescennius Niger. The city supported Niger but had to surrender to Severus following a three-year resistance. During this period, the city was nearly destroyed; stones from the buildings and even bronze and marble statues were used as weapons by Byzantine residents. This was taken further after the entry of Severus into the city. Soldiers and administrators were massacred, the main buildings and headquarters were set ablaze, and properties were looted. The city was subject to great destruction. Its status was reduced from city to village, and the city walls were destroyed. Later, Septimius Severus decided to rebuild the city at the request of his son Caracalla. He expanded the city walls in 197 and named the new city Augusta Antonina on behalf of his son. This name was used together with Byzantium for some time.19 In this way the foundations of the first imperial transformation of the city were laid.

8- The schema of Constantinople

Emperor Severus finished the construction of city walls extending from the Galata Bridge, which surrounded the Acropolis, to Çemberlitaş and Kadırga, and commenced building the Hippodrome and Zeuxippus Bathhouse. He ordered the laying of a street with pillars called Mese and the reconstruction of the area surrounding the Hagia Sophia.20 The city was by now an attractive place, prominent thanks to its commercial and military activities. It was even treated as a significant base for the Roman Empire’s political and military activities directed at Anatolia and the eastern provinces. Abrasive raids by the Goths necessitated reinforcing the defense of the city. The Emperor Valerian took the city under his protection and reinforced the walls. In this way, Byzantium turned into a Roman city dominated by pagan buildings and a pagan atmosphere during the division of the Roman Empire and formation of the New Roman Empire. After adopting Christianity, Roman Emperor Constantine I (Constantine the Great) selected Byzantium as the capital of his new empire, which meant that he would give up his hopes for the pagan Roman. By his hands, the most important imperial transformation was begun, and was based on the building blocks of the former Byzantium.

9- The depiction of Emperor Theodisios watching the demonstrations  in Hippodrome (North and South parts) (Obelisk)

It is not completely clear how Constantine I decided to reconstruct the city as a new capital with a Christian facade. Thoughts regarding the long-established and long-lasting history of pagan elements and the elimination of their traces may have influenced the emperor. Could Byzantium be the alternative to Rome? It is difficult to answer this question; however, geopolitical reasons also lie behind the selection of such a distant city by Constantine I. The city was on the European side of the Bosphorus, after all, yet it was one step away from the East. It was geographically near to the sacred lands of Christianity, namely Palestine and Anatolia, and possessed an organic bond with them. Moreover, being located at the tip of Thrace provided a strategic convenience for reaching the west. Constantine did not select Nicomedia (İzmit), although it was a more important and well-established city than Byzantium. His choice was based on the geographical possibilities of the triangular peninsula on which Byzantium was located, and its rich hinterland as well as its favorable position for defense. Fortification of the continental part of the peninsula would considerably facilitate defense. Nicomedia was used as the capital for some time by the Emperor Diocletian, and it was considered the main center of the empire’s eastern territories. However, Nicomedia was inland and did not have a strategic position for controlling the east–west axis, which was an essential requirement for the new imperial capital. Emperor Constantine I confirmed that the new capital of the Roman Empire would be a relatively small city, Byzantium. The construction of the new capital began in 324. Constantine expanded old Byzantium to nearly four times its original size. He embellished the city with buildings similar to those existing elsewhere in the Roman Empire; he built palaces, senate houses, temples, and churches and completed the construction of the Hippodrome. The official inauguration of the new city took place on 11 May 330.21

10- Milion (Milestone)

This new city was designed as the capital of the first Christian empire by Constantine, the first Christian emperor, who designated Christianity as one of the empire’s official religions in 313. Constantine also tried to emphasize Christianity within his urbanization program.22 Christian elements concretized in religious buildings constructed during his reign constituted crucial physical pieces of the city. From this perspective, it is not wrong to suggest that the city was the first capital of the Christian empire. Christianity would be declared as the official religion of the state during the reign of Theodosius in 395. The declaration of Byzantium as the Christian capital laid the grounds for making the Roman Empire a Christian state. In short, 330, when Byzantium’s name was changed to Konstantinoupolis after the founder of the city, marked the start of the most important transformation of the Roman Empire. This name would be pronounced as Konstantiniyye by Islamic states emerging on the eastern borders of the city.

Undoubtedly, Rome served as the main model for the design of the new city. However, its pagan identity would gradually be infused with Christianity, and a genuine Christian capital would be born. New Rome/Nova Roma/Konstantinoupolis/Konstantiniyye was surrounded by walls extending from Yenikapı to Çukurbostan, Lycus River, Cibali, and the Golden Horn on the Marmara shores. Today’s Sultan Ahmet area and its surroundings were the center, and the pagan temples in Acropolis stood there. The Hippodrome and the bathhouse of Zeuxippus maintained their existence as important elements of the city. Constantine completed the construction of the Hippodrome and expanded it. He also restored the bathhouse and constructed the first buildings of the imperial palace adjacent to the eastern facade of the Hippodrome. He constructed Augusteion Square with porticos where today’s Sultan Ahmet Square is located. North of the square stood the Hagia Sophia and the patriarchal palace, and this district was turned into a religious center.

The religious center, the imperial palace, and the Hippodrome, which were open to public use, constituted the spiritual, earthly, and administrative areas of representation. The Christian city would be represented by this district. Mese, the main road, extended from the Milion (the starting point of all roads or zero milestone) west of Augusteion Square to the continental walls of the city. The road was surrounded by Constantine’s forum; the column of Constantine (Çemberlitaş) was erected in the middle, while a mausoleum was built at the location of the Fatih Mosque, where the church of the Holy Apostles would later be built.23 The Column of Constantine, around which celebrations marking the establishment of the city were performed, carried a pagan, Apollon-like statue. Underneath the column lay some sacred relics from the history of Christianity. Pagan monuments clearly determined the character of Constantinople through a combined new design supporting Christian elements. Later, the sacred umbrella of Christianity would encapsulate all these elements and radically change old traditions.

11- Hagia Sophia (Salzenberg)

Foundations laid by the Emperor Constantine were developed in accordance with the city’s character by his successors. Emperor Theodosius II expanded the city walls toward the west in the first half of the fifth century (413–447); the present city walls emerged thereof.24 According to statistical data dating back to the second half of the fifth century; the capital possessed five imperial palaces, nine palaces for princes, 161 bathhouses (eight of which were owned by the state), four forums, five grain silos, the Hippodrome, two theaters, 322 streets, 4,388 mansions (residences of the wealthy or domus), 52 porticos, 140 bakeries (20 of which were owned by the state), and 14 churches. There were also large spaces between the city walls erected by Theodosius and Constantine and scarce settlements.25 The city expanded to its final extent on the Historic Peninsula; the backbone of the capital was completed, and the city preserved this appearance during the conquest in 1453. At that time, the walls of Theodosius presented an unsurpassable barrier to the Ottoman army. The Hagia Sophia was indubitably the most significant structure that represented this Christian imperial capital on the peninsula.26

12- Emperor Constantine IX and Empress Zoe donating money to Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya)

Emperor Justinian completed the physical development of the city through reconstruction activities, as did Constantine. According to some historians, he completely reconstructed the city as the Nika riots, known as one of the most critical events in the history of the city, broke out in 532. These riots caused considerable destruction to the city and cost many lives. The cause of the riots has been attributed to the rivalry between teams called the Blues and Greens, who competed during chariot racing in the Hippodrome. When the unrest, which emerged as a result of statesmen joining the rivalry, turned into a public uprising, Justinian’s reign was imperiled. The uprising was suppressed with difficulty. Threatening the reign of the emperor directly, this uprising was the first in a series of similar events in the history of the city. It is also an interesting example of the relationship between uprisings and the city. Designed in the shape of a fan, unlike the grid-like design of Rome, the capital’s physical characteristics were conducive to such uprisings. The intertwined nature of the population, the flow of money and goods with administrative centers and proximity of locations constituted an ideal environment for a riot. Public areas where games and ceremonial celebrations were performed brought the administrators and the people face to face, and this facilitated the riot as well. Located in the area where the riots took place, the Hagia Sophia, the bathhouse of Zeuxippus, part of the palace extending from Propyleia to the house of Ares, and the long pillared road leading to the Forum of Constantine were set ablaze, and the residences of the wealthy were plundered; all circles representing the government were affected.27 The Nika riots are referred to in Islamic literature in conjunction with the construction story of the Hagia Sophia, albeit in a slightly different way.28

13- Great Imperial Palace (Mosaic Museum)

Coming out of the riot stronger, Emperor Justinian ordered the repair and reconstruction of the churches of the Hagia Sophia and Hagia Irene, Sergius and Bacchus, the Church of Apostles, where emperors were buried, Basilica Cistern, the bathhouse of Zeuxippus, the senate house, and the Arcaded Road. Thus Constantinople completed its great sixth-century transformation. The symbol of Constantinople, which would become the most important center of eastern Christianity, the great Hagia Sophia would be considered as a sanctorum not only for the Christian world but also for the states of the expanding Muslim region. This tradition would, without a doubt, be bequeathed to the Ottoman Turks. Legends and myths regarding the Hagia Sophia in the history of Islam would transform into a spiritual motif together with the holiness attributed to Konstantiniyye. Legends of the Hagia Sophia would preserve their intellectual vitality as the first comprehensive literature of Turkish and Islamic history following the conquest.29


In addition to being the first capital of the Christian Roman Empire and a significant religious center, Constantinople took on the image of a sacred place, which was highlighted as a goal by the Islamic prophet, and became the subject of a platitude of legends. As the geography in which Islam emerged and expanded, the city gained importance as the largest political center in the eastern Christian world and started nourishing from a perceived great threat that could come from the East. For both sides of the divided Christian world, Istanbul served as the point of departure for ideals such as attaining the prosperity of the East and seizing the sacred city, Jerusalem, from the Muslims. As the papacy and western Christianity gained strength, representatives of the western world regarded the Eastern Roman Empire and its east as affluent, civilized societies. Thus, a purely eastern image of Constantinople emerged in the western mind. The Crusades, which were triggered because of this image, sought not only to reach Jerusalem, located in the Islamic world, but also the eastern Roman Empire, and thus Constantinople was a target as well. The explicit opposition constituted the main source for later conflicts. The resistance of Islam would gain a religious aspect in the same way.

14- Çemberlitaş (Column of Constantine)

When the Roman Empire, which was based in Constantinople, was divided in 395, the capital’s destiny became more dependent on the East. While the Eastern Roman Church maintained orthodoxy, a different denominational formation in the West would be adopted by non-Roman tribes, called barbarians, claiming rights to the Roman heritage and establishing great states over time, and thus would contribute to reinforcing the religious and political authority. Thereafter, western and eastern churches would become the focal point for opposing powers, represented by Rome and Constantinople. As the center of genuine (orthodox) Christianity, Constantinople gained a spiritual significance for the hinterland of the Eastern Roman Empire. Constantinople had religious and administrative control over the Balkans, Anatolia, and the ancient Christian geography. Religious practices represented by waxing Roma deepened the antagonism, and the place and perception of Eastern Rome’s capital remained intact. It was a sacred center like Jerusalem, and it was considered a place to conquer by western Christians. During the reign of Justinian, who provided the city with a complete Christian atmosphere after Constantine I, eastern elements prevailed in Constantinople. This image of the capital came to be known openly both in the West and the East.

There were threats from the West against the city in the ninth century. In addition to the flow of tribes from the Balkans and the northern steppes, the Sassanians had already chosen the capital as their target in the seventh century. The reason behind this was, without a doubt, the affluence and size of the capital. Representing the might of the Eastern Roman Empire, Constantinople evaded the Avar (626) and Sassanian dangers, yet encountered a greater peril upon the emergence of Islam. It is clear that a different Constantinople theme was extensively used in literature through the influence of Arabic geographers within the Islamic world. This tradition appeared to manifest itself in military campaigns for Konstantiniyye during the Umayyad period. Three large campaigns were undertaken by the Umayyad Khalifs (669, 674, 717), and a fourth by the Abbasids (781–782).30

The first siege, led by Muawiyah Ibn Ebu-Sufyan, left an indelible trace and formed the basis of several myths.31 Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, who hosted Muhammad the Prophet during the hegira (emigration), participated in this siege and fell sick while there. His death before the city walls provided a great spiritual motivation for the Islamic forces on their way to the conquest of 1453. It is possible to recognize this situation in Arabic geographical works in reference to Konstantiniyye. Increasing interest in the city must have gradually spread through these works. This tradition referred to Konstantiniyye as şehr-i mev‘ûdu or the promised city, for Muslim rulers based on the good tidings of the Prophet. Arabic geographers’ interest in the city commenced with the completion of the last Abbasid campaign. While Islamic geographers promoted and described Konstantiniyye in detail, they were not completely aware of the city’s loss of magnificence. In fact, in the period from the siege of Avars playing havoc with the Balkans until the last Arabic campaign, the city underwent a social and commercial deterioration in conjunction with disasters such as plague outbreaks.

15- Emperor Theofilos’ epigraph for the restoration of sea walls (9<sup>th</sup> century) (Istanbul Archeology Museum)

The plague outbreak in 717–718 left the city nearly uninhabited; a historian recorded that there was no space to bury the dead. Thus, the first depression in the imperial city emerged in the first half of the eighth century. City life was nearly dead. There existed neither labor nor money to repair the city walls damaged by the great earthquake of 740. The plague of 747 devastated the entire city, which necessitated population transfers in order to rebuild the damaged aqueducts. Recovering from this ruinous situation was difficult and took a long time—from 755 until the Crusades. The religious face of the city was crystallized further in the tenth century. Except for the occasional fairs, the only public gathering space was provided by the churches. The city experienced considerable recovery during the Komnenos/Comnenus period, in a major economic boom that was reminiscent of its earlier prosperity, started to become crowded, and excelled again in the Mediterranean trade. In the tenth century, Russian and Italian merchants settled in the city. Privileges given to Venice had changed commercial life. In 1148, the Venetian neighborhood located between the Eminönü and Unkapanı districts was expanded. The Latins came to own the best buildings along the Golden Horn.32

During the capital’s recovery period, Ibn Hurdazbih (d. 300 / 912/913), an Arabic geographer, was aware that the city had been called Bizantiniyye or el-Bizirum and that Constantine the Great transferred his kingdom there, surrounded it with walls, and named it Konstantiniyye. El-Mes’udi (d. 956/957) traced the name Istanbul to the tenth century, referred to the city as the capital of the Greeks, and named it Bulin. This word meant “the city,” and the city was widely referred to as isten-bulin by its residents. Although these statements may indicate that the city was also widely known as Istanbul as well as Konstantiniyye, the former name has been proved to be corrupt version of Konstantinopolis. However, use of the new name (Istanbul) increased.33 Similar expressions used by other Arabic voyagers are quite striking. Some openly emphasized that the local people called the city Istanbul.34 Some encyclopedic works included entries under both Istanbul and Konstantiniyye. Yakut el-Hamevi (d. 626/1229) was the first geographer to write about such a separate topic and explained that he would provide details in reference to the city as Konstantiniyye under it.35 By this means, the use of the names Konstantiniyye and Istanbul increasingly spread in the eastern world, and Turkish sources used both names for the city.36 The sacred capital was only a polis (city) for the Christian residents of the Eastern Roman Empire, and the name Constantinople emphasized that identity. During that period, other cities were not cities; the term polis was used only in reference to Constantinople. This name was adopted by other peoples in the East. While the istin-polis of the eastern Roman people was gradually forgotten, it found a permanent place in the Islamic world and started to be used alongside Konstantiniyye.

16- Walls of Istanbul

The first images and written descriptions of Istanbul in the Islamic world appear to have served as sources for stories and legends created within this framework alongside the image of the city in later periods. Astronomer and geographer Ibn Rustah, who lived in the first half of the tenth century, described the city in detail by transmission from a person called Harun b. Yahya in Istanbul. According to Harun b. Yahya, there were five elephant statues on the Roman gate of the city surrounded by walls in addition to another significant gate called Bigas (Pigi or Silivrikapı) made of iron. There was also a bronze horse and statues of humans and wild animals in the Hippodrome. The imperial palace was quite large and surrounded by walls. The Hagia Sophia was also a splendid building, and horse and snake statues were placed there as talismans. The marble tomb and statue near the Hagia Sophia built by an emperor were quite remarkable.37

The description of Istanbul summarized above was the main reference for many later Arabic geographers. A myriad of stories were created about the statue, said to belong to Justinian I by Harun b. Yahya and to Constantine the Great by other sources. The information in Arabic literature was later reflected in Ottoman sources as well. The raised right hand of the emperor and the globe in his left hand gained an interesting place in the imagery of Istanbul and were subject to several interpretations, some apocalyptic. The emperor was interpreted as calling the people to the city with his right hand or pointing to the Islamic territories. On the globe on his left hand is written: “I have ruled over the world and hereby hold it like a globe. Unfortunately I passed away from this world and could not take anything along with me.”38

Describing the city in the fourteenth century, the voyager al-Dimashqi stated that the grave of Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, a companion of the Prophet Muhammad, was situated outside the walls of Konstantiniyye.39 This information provides an idea regarding the sources of Mehmed II and his circles for discovering the grave spot following the conquest of Istanbul. Undoubtedly, hadiths attributed to the Prophet Muhammad can be added to the sources used. It is evident that the hadiths in Arabic literature continuously kept the hopes of conquest alive. Some of these hadiths, despite their questionable authenticity, provided a powerful impetus for conquest. An emerging sacred goal and target on Konstantiniyye/Istanbul were consolidated from a spiritual and religious perspective as well. The first image of Konstantiniyye in the Islamic world came from the abovementioned hadiths. These hadiths were acknowledged as authentic, and all hadiths from reliable hadith corpora were related to apocalyptic expectations. Supported by a comprehensive religious literature, which would be extensively cited, these hadiths attained a place in the Ottoman mindset in particular. Before moving onto this, it is necessary to return to the relationship of the city with the Western world in terms of its imperial image. That will make it easier to understand the transformation of the city into a crossroads of the western and eastern worlds and their cultures.

17- Tekfur Palace

The interest of the Latins in the city had gained a different political aspect in conjunction with the shaping of the new religious understanding since the division of the empire. While the Orthodox world was shaken by internal denominational tensions and the effects of these were reflected in the capital, the city also became the target of military attacks. According to Russian annals, the Russians attacked the city in 860. Mentioning the destruction caused by these pagan northerners, Byzantine sources recorded that they were gradually converted to Christianity, preferred to be under the protection of the emperor, and would not resort to such acts again. Referred to as Tzargrad by the Russians, Constantinople continued to be targeted by them subsequently. However, this situation changed as Christianity was further established.40 In fact, the Russians adopted Christian rituals and church institutions from Constantinople. “The city protected by God” was naturally the capital of Christianity for them. It was the center of Christian ecumenism and the hiding place for sacred relics, and emerged as the New Jerusalem.

Constantinople/Tzargrad was a city of myths and imagination for Russians and for all Slavs. During the period of political division, Constantinople came to the fore as a religious and cultural center. Reverence paid to God’s protected city and its emperor took a different direction with the Third Roma Moscow ideology suggested by the church in the sixteenth century. The city belonged to the Turks during this period. Ivan IV, crowned as the tzar in 1547, began embracing the Byzantine heritage upon the recognition of the ecumenical Patriarchate.41 Bulgarians and Serbians were among the groups Christianized by the Eastern Roman Empire. All of these groups became adherents of Orthodox Christianity in the territories controlled by Rome and developed hostility toward Constantinople when they seized political power themselves. These unhellenized peoples occasionally carried out military operations that reached the gates of the capital.

18- Emperor Ioannes Kommenos II, Empress Irene, and their son donating money to Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya)

Influenced by denominational differences, the western world perceived Constantinople in a very different way than the northern Christians did. The strengthening papacy in Rome was a potential threat to eastern Christianity. Constantinople, as the New Rome, was the bearer of the image of Christianity in its entirety that was required to subjugate and convert all barbarians outside its own borders, since the city remained unrivaled as a political power. The city’s power turned into religious authority thanks to the patriarchate and was defined as ecumenical to emphasize its universality. Moreover, the political power of the Carolingian dynasty (812) started to confine Eastern Rome. Supported by this new mighty power, Rome took over the Christianization of western Slavs extending from Poland to Croatia. Constantinople’s assertion that it was the head of the whole Christian world seemed to be increasingly challenged. Constantinople was obliged to pay more attention to the “barbarian” westerners of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.

The Latins in particular achieved considerable development between the tenth and twelfth centuries and experienced a commercial, social, and religious transformation as well as a population increase. Their intention for Constantinople remained obscure. However, it did not seem probable that a unified power would emerge from within this divided political structure. For Italian city-states that had strong trade networks, Constantinople was an important trade and port city on routes extending from the Black Sea to the northern steppes and even the terminus of the Silk Road. Sustaining the existence of trade colonies was of utmost importance. Furthermore, the era of the Crusades, which targeted sacred places, appeared to reveal deep religious and political opposition on the basis of Constantinople. Relations between eastern and western Christianity came to a complete halt around the year 1085. Latin churches in the city were closed down. In the eyes of the people, the Pope was in collaboration with the pagan Normans. The Pope could also use his power to excommunicate the emperor. However, relations started recovering. Following a decision by the consul to go to war, it was agreed that the armies gather in Constantinople. The fait accompli of the Crusaders would soon cause great concern in Constantinople.42

19- The apostles’ effigies and the decorated arch found in the excavations of Fenari Isa Mosque (Istanbul Archeology Mosque)

When the first Crusaders arrived in Constantinople in 1096, it was probably the first time they had seen such a magnificent city. Blinded by prosperity and magnificence, some Crusaders plundered the surrounding areas. Godefroi de Bouillon, the Crusade commander and the Duke of Lorraine, established a headquarters in front of the capital. Emperor Alexios wished the Crusaders to cross to the other side without allowing them contact with the city. Disputes between the Crusaders and the Emperor caused Godefroi to attack the city. The sudden Crusader attack from the direction of Blachernae Palace on 2 April 1097 caused great panic in the city. However, the emperor imposed his power on these attackers through his peaceful attitude, and Godefroi expressed his will to take a vassalage oath and pass through the Bosphorus.43 This crisis was the first of many dangers the city would face during the Crusades. Witnessing these developments, Anna Komnena expressed her astonishment at the treasure shown by the emperor to Bohemond, one of the leaders of the Crusade. It is reasonable to assume that others seeing the city for the first time reacted in the same way.44

The fourth Crusade holds an important place in the capital’s history. The good fortune of Constantinople was reversed for quite a long time. The Eastern Roman Empire gradually retreated, beginning in 1071 when the Turks entered Anatolia. The Turks were settled in the territory across from the capital in an early period. Understanding that this danger could not be eliminated via the Crusades, the empire was increasingly faced with multifaceted perils. In a sense, the fourth Crusade was the start of events that would stage all fears of the empire and lead to the end of the ancient empire. Constantinople would undoubtedly take the greatest hit. Ending the imperial character of the city, the effects of the Latin occupation that began in 1204 would remain almost until the empire’s last breath. Modern historians are concerned about why the fourth Crusade was directed against Constantinople instead of its real target, Egypt. According to historians of the era, Enrico Dandalo, the Doge of Venice, was to blame. Supporting the call of the Pope for a Crusade and rejecting the throne change in Byzantine, the Doge of Venice intended to enthrone Alexios Angelos, the second son of the previous emperor, who had taken shelter in the West. Alexios proposed that he and his blinded and imprisoned father, Emperor Isaac II, would be enthroned together and promised that he would provide a highly generous response. His offer was a golden opportunity for the Doge of Venice. Alexios guaranteed to pay 200,000 gold coins, procure necessary supplies for the journey to Egypt, and put 10,000 Byzantine troops under their command. He would also provide the military forces necessary to establish their rule over the holy land. He promised that the whole empire would recognize the superiority of the Pope in Rome. The Doge of Venice knew very well that these offers were meaningless. He was aware of the real situation, as he had been to Constantinople twice. He was troubled by the privileges awarded to his rivals, the Pisans and Genoese, and did not trust Emperor Alexios III at all.

20- The epigraph dated 1452 which was inscribed on the occasion of restoration
        of the walls in Galata. The epigraph reads “Dear honorable administrator
        Nicolaus Antonious Spinula had this stone made in a couple of days in order to
        be used in the tower when he was serving as the Podesta of the Roman Empire.”
        (Istanbul Archeology Mosque)

Crusade ships anchored in Yeşilköy on 23 June 1203. It was as though they were allured by the view of the city from afar—its walls, magnificence, towers, palaces, and churches. The ships moved along the walls the following morning and approached Üsküdar. A small conflict broke out with Byzantine troops on 1 July. Emperor Alexios III was not well liked. Furthermore, considering that he would become a puppet emperor, the locals did not seem to recognize young Alexios, who had been imposed on them by the Latins. The Latins were somewhat surprised by this situation. The people did not wait for Alexios with enthusiasm. The ships moved toward the port on 5 July; the chain was broken the following day, and the navy was able to enter the Haliç easily. Entering through the walls of the Haliç took place on 17 July. The emperor fled the city with his daughter. Neighborhoods near the Haliç were in flames and the struggle continued inside. The Byzantines were left without an emperor, and released Alexios II from prison and enthroned him as the emperor. Surprised by the enthronement of Alexios II, the Crusaders were obliged to accept the proposal that the emperor would confirm their agreement and share power with his son only if they recognized him as emperor.

Taking on the title of emperor on 1 August 1203, young Alexios put on the imperial crown. Western powers were envious of the prosperity and sacred relics of the city. However, Alexios did not keep his promises. The city residents believed that the new emperor had sold his people and church to Rome. The Pope wished to prove his superiority by inviting the Patriarch to Rome. The great tension between the residents and westerners could transform into a conflict at any moment. This dreaded event occurred within a short time. A Byzantine group attacked Genoese, Pisan, and Venetian stores and set churches on fire. Later, fanatic Latin groups attacked the Muslim neighborhood and burned the masjid there. When local residents arrived to rescue the Muslims, the Latins retreated and set fire to some buildings. The great fire continued for a week. Alexios seemed to have acknowledged the nonpayment of the promised sum of money to the Crusaders as the winter drew closer. The Crusaders made continuous demands for payment of the debt and eventually gave an ultimatum to the emperor, threatening that they would go to war to collect their payment. The conflicts in the city then became public. Despite the failure to set fire to the Venetian ships at the port, those who revolted from the Hagia Sophia succeeded in seizing control of the city in January 1204. An aristocrat and son-in-law of Alexios III named Alexios Dukas (whose epithet was Murtzhuphlos or Sulky) was enthroned as Alexios V by the insurgents, while Alexios IV was imprisoned and later murdered. His father, Isaac, met the same fate.

The new emperor wished to expel the Latins from the city immediately and tear up the agreement signed by his predecessor. This constituted a golden opportunity for the Latins. Nothing could bind them any longer, and they could easily conquer the city. There emerged a clear purpose from the Fourth Crusade: the conquest of Constantinople and the Eastern Roman Empire. The agreement signed by the Crusader leaders in March 1204 was as follows: the pillage shall be shared, an emperor shall be chosen, and the states shall be divided among themselves; a Latin emperor shall be chosen by a committee consisting of six Venetians and six Franks. These exciting memoirs affected even the Crusaders who were most eager to reach the holy land. Admiring the magnificence of the city at the beginning, the Crusaders now disparaged and insulted city residents. Moreover, the clergy imbued them with the thought that precious sacred relics in the deviated Byzantine churches should belong to their real owners.

Everything was ready in March 1204, the first attack took place on 9 April, and the events snowballed. The Crusaders entered the city, and the emperor withdrew to his Bukoleon palace and then left to take shelter with his father-in-law in Thrace. While the Crusade leaders were on their way to the imperial palace, their soldiers started looting the city. A three-day-long fire destroyed many residences. Massacres, plundering, and rape followed in quick succession. Treasures and monuments preserved by the imperial city for nine centuries were demolished. Other statues and articles made of precious metals were either stolen or melted; mansions, palaces, churches, and monasteries were robbed and destroyed. Even nuns were subjected to rape. The graves of emperors including the Sacred Church of the Apostles and that of Constantine were also looted. Justinian’s dead body was thrown on the street. The golden and silver niches of the Hagia Sophia were ripped into pieces. A prostitute sang songs in the office of the patriarch.45 A platitude of sacred relics and valuable artifacts were shipped to the west. The most famous of these are the four bronze horse statues located in the church of Saint Marco in Venice. An eyewitness, the historian Niketas Choniates, provided an accurate account of the events. Witnessing the plundering of the capital of the New Roman Empire by his coreligionists, Niketas eulogized the city with the following words:

O City, City, eye of all cities, universal boast, supramundane wonder, wet nurse of churches, leader of the faith, guide of Orthodoxy, beloved topic of orations, the abode of every good thing! O City, that hast drunk at the hand of the Lord the cup of his fury! O City, consumed by a fire far more drastic than the fire which of old fell upon the Pentapolis! ... What malevolent powers have desired to have you and taken you to be sifted? What jealous and relentless avenging demons have made a riotous assault upon you in wild revel? If these implacable and crazed suitors neither fashioned a bridal chamber for thee, nor lit a nuptial torch for thee, did they not, however, ignite the coals of destruction? O prolific City, once garbed in royal silk and purple and now filthy and squalid and heir to many evils, having need of true children! O City, formerly enthroned on high, striding far and wide, magnificent in comeliness and more becoming in stature; now thy luxurious garments and elegant royal veils are rent and torn; thy flashing eye has grown dark, and thou art like unto an aged furnace woman all covered with soot, and thy formerly glistening and delightful countenance is now furrowed by loose wrinkles.... Who shall save thee? Or who shall comfort thee? Or who shall turn back to inquire after thy welfare?”46

21- Belgrade Gate

In order to better understand the destruction that befell the capital, the views of an eyewitness regarding the city 30 years earlier can provide a comparison. Upon arriving in Constantinople after traveling through Italian and Balkan cities, Benjamin of Tudela, a Jewish traveler, rhapsodized over the city’s prosperity and beauty. He wrote that the city was full of merchants of various nationalities, very lively and prosperous, and that there existed no other city like Constantinople, casting aside Baghdad, located in the Islamic world. He mentioned the magnificence of the imperial palace, the pillars, and the crown embellished with gold, silver, and precious stones. He also reiterated his admiration for Constantinople by stating, “I do not know whether there is another city more prosperous than Konstantiniyye.”47 This prosperity and glory ended with the Latin occupation. At the same time, during Latin rule, some western observers in the city were deeply affected by its mesmerizing atmosphere. There was economic development in commercial life, and the social life in the city improved during this period. However, it was obvious that the capital of the New Roman Empire had substantially lost its ancient characteristics.

The Latins shared the territories of the Eastern Roman Empire, and a new Latin emperor was enthroned in the city. The city was turning into a Latin city, politically albeit not physically. This meant that the imperial city’s identity would vanish from history. Relocating Venice to Constantinople thanks to the geographical suitability of the capital was even discussed; however, this was never attempted. At the end of the sixteenth century, a Venetian diplomat used this information, which reached him by word of mouth, to unfold Istanbul’s unprecedented position. According to him, when the city was under their control, the Venetians and the French asked: “How would it be to relocate the State of Venice to Constantinople?” because the city seemed suitable for spreading the “universal shipping genius and control” of Venice to neighboring regions.48 The author reinforced his argument by emphasizing that to see this city would be to see the most beautiful thing in the world.

The Fourth Crusade reached its goal, indeed. Baudouin, who became “the Roman Emperor through God’s grace,” declared this to the whole western world. Upon receiving the news, Pope Innocent III considered the occupation to be a miracle from God, and immediately took the empire and its emperor under his spiritual protection. The Doge of Venice performed great services for Christianity, and thus could break his Crusader vow. Constantinople would henceforth be the center of the Empire of Romania. “Venice in the Byzantine” emerged. The city remained burned and ruined for a long time. During the Latin period, which continued until 1261, Constantinople did not undergo any notable reconstruction. The Latins did not construct new buildings; rather, they appropriated some churches and used them. Kyriotissa (Kalenderhane Mosque) was reserved for the Franciscans. The fresco of Saint Francis is the Latins’ only artwork, and it is now exhibited in the Archeology Museum. When Michael VIII Palaiologos came to the city as the emperor in 1261, he encountered a total ruin that was the result of years of turmoil and destructive events. Traces of this dreadful destruction were not easily erased, despite the reconstruction efforts of the emperor.

Accounts of Arabic geographer Ab al-Fida, Ibn Battuta, and the Spanish envoy Clavijo suggest that the recovery of the city following the Latin occupation took place over a long period of time. Departing from the accounts and written works that remain today, it can be said that there was no considerable physical improvement in the city before the Ottoman conquest. Providing a short description of the city, the Hagia Sophia, and the bronze statues at its front, Abu al-Fida wrote in 1331 about the crop fields and vegetable gardens inside the walls and a great number of ruined buildings.49 Unaware of the destruction in the city, Ibn Battuta referred to the city as “magnificent Konstantiniyye.” The city is “extremely large” and divided into two parts. The part called “Astanbul” is located on the east side of the Haliç. The emperor and the statesmen reside here and most of the population is settled here as well. The markets are organized and floored with stones. Moreover, most of the shopkeepers and craftsmen are female.... In such a crowded city, most of the residents are constituted by priests, hermits and monks.”50 Ibn Batuta touched on the insufficient number of males in the city, albeit vaguely. The number of female shopkeepers seems to be connected to this. Information provided by Battuta relating to the Latins includes only the description of the Galata district.

In contrast to Battuta’s account, the Spanish/Catalonian envoy Clavijo, who arrived in the city in October 1403, was aware of the fact that the capital had lost much of its earlier magnificence. After mentioning the churches and palaces he visited, he described the physical position of the city as follows:

The city of Constantinople is surrounded by a high and strong wall, with towers. The wall has three angles, and from angle to angle there is a distance of six miles, so that the whole city is eighteen miles in circumference, which is six leagues; two sides facing the sea, and one facing the land. At the angle which does not face the sea, on a hill, are the palaces of the emperor. Though the city is so large, it is not all well peopled, for in the middle of it there are many enclosures, where there are corn fields and fruit gardens. The most populous part is near the sea, and the greatest traffic is from the city, by the gates which open on the sea, especially the gates leading to the city of Pera, on account of the ships which go there to unload. ... This city of Constantinople contains many great churches and monasteries, but most of them are in ruins; though it seems clear that, in former times, when the city was in its youth, it was the most renowned city in the world. ... The Greeks do not call it Constantinople as we do, but Escomboli [Istanbul].51

22- The topography of Constantinople in 1453 (Ernest Mamboury)

23- Sultan Mehmed II when fighting (Hünername)

The observations of Clavijo suggest that the city was unable to recover from the Latin occupation before the Ottoman conquest, which took place approximately half a century later. The population of the city decreased, and it turned into a ruined town. However, the Ottoman conquest of the city in the fifteenth century would turn the city into an imperial capital again.

For the Ottoman Turks, emerging as a Turkmen principality on the border of the Second Roman Empire, the city had quite a special place notwithstanding. Beginning at the start of the 1300s, the Ottomans explored around the capital. They were also aware of the significance of the city. It undoubtedly appeared to be a holy cause for Ottoman intellectuals, who based their views on Islamic literature. Interestingly enough, this city had a dark face that was based on the hadiths of the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad. This face would be fed by political ideas, and emerge reinforced with a strong presence in the Ottoman intellectual world. Undoubtedly, Istanbul was considered an ideal target for conquest by the Islamic and Turkish world from a positive and spiritual perspective. It seems highly significant to determine the place of existing perceptions in the imperial transformation of the city, which would gain a different character with the Ottoman conquest. However, there are different aspects to this issue. There were various rumors regarding the city, and it was considered as the source of all evil during a period when all disasters were associated with disbelief. Konstantiniyye was considered a source of political trouble for the state of the Ottomans surrounding the capital of the Byzantine Empire was defined, on one hand, as a holy city thanks to the effects of ancient Byzantine and Arabic literature, and on the other hand as a source of damnation and malice.

French traveler Pierre Gyllius pointed to this ill-omened side of the city between 1544 and 1547: he needed to point out bad omens and negative rumors relating to the capital when introducing the ancient works in the city. Based on the writings of Byzantine Johns Tzetzes, he included and interpreted rumors such as “the ox shall low, the bull shall grieve” and “such a pity that you shall not live a thousand years on your seven hills.”52 The rumors manifested the expectation of the ancient Byzantine residents that they would disappear a century before the time in which this author wrote, and suggested that dreadful times would arrive one day. The history of these apocalyptic omens is quite old. In fact, the “end of the world” concept had been predominant in Christian belief since the religion’s early years. This idea was preserved even after the emergence of Christian Rome. Grounded in the Torah, apocalyptic beliefs were presented through influential narration in the Bible. The signs determining the end of the world held great significance for this apocalyptic perception, fed by expectations for the resurrection of Jesus.

Diseases, famines, earthquakes, false prophets, and the emergence of the Antichrist (Masih al-Dajjal) were considered harbingers of the end of time. The omens adapted by the first Christians for the Roman Empire changed partially when the empire turned into a Christian state. However, this was a phenomenon foreseen by the final fate, as Jesus Christ said that the Bible would be preached to the whole world. Furthermore, the omens had a different tendency after the relocation of the center of the empire to Constantinople. The role of Rome before the end time started manifesting itself in Constantinople. In other words, Constantinople replaced Babel and Rome in the series of cursed imperial capitals that were to collapse in order to be sanctified.

24- The two monuments of the attempts of the conquest of Istanbul, Anatolian and Rumelian Castles (A detail from the clock given to Sultan Mahmud II as a gift from Russia, Topkapı Palace Museum Library, no. 53/106)

Placed within apocalyptic scenarios, Istanbul was perceived not only as a place idealized as mostly appeared later in the form of a sacred duty for those targeting it, the divine mission of those rulers desiring to be honored by the good tidings of the prophet or of golden apple, but also as an inauspicious place, which was open to all kinds of peril and should not be rebuilt. These beliefs are recorded in a considerable literature. Whether the foundations of the social and religious dimension of this incident are based on Byzantine myths or earlier elements associated with other cities and subsequently Istanbul, the corpus of literature requires to consider the existence of such a literature no matter whether the social and religions dimensions of this literature’s foundations be based on Byzantine myths or have been already said for other cities and later associated with Istanbul. The inclusion of Istanbul in the series of cursed imperial capitals with Babel and Rome is quite striking in terms of the apocalyptic tradition. Within a socio-psychological framework, it is possible to perceive this as the reflection of a tendency to associate sinfulness with their city in the face of disasters that befell people living in well-known and crowded cities. In addition, this issue constitutes an important basis and argument for those who opposed the conquests, which facilitates the research of necessary data to base historical evaluation on solid ground, and bears an interesting character.53


A World City of the Classical Period

Conquest of the second capital of the ancient Roman Empire by eastern people one thousand years after its establishment justified the omens to some extent and undoubtedly points to the last turning point in the history of the city’s historical transformation. Although the conquest of the city in the fifteenth century is associated with various negative images, it became a holy target. Changing from principality to the state system, possessing an increasingly different political and social structure, embodying various religious and ethnic groups, the Ottomans regarded conquering this city as an important step in ruling the West from the west. The predestined fall of Istanbul took place in 1453, and it shocked the West and generated fear in the Christian world in general. On the other hand, the fall was welcomed by the Islamic world with surprising dispassionateness.54 Mehmed II reorganized and rebuilt the city following the conquest, thus making it the center of a great empire. However, when news of the conquest was sent to the Mamluk Sultanate and the Kara Koyunlu Turkomans ruling Iran, it was regarded as an ordinary event by the Mamluks who had the caliphate and control of the holy lands of Islam.55 Without doubt, the Mamluk Sultanate was aware of the extreme importance of the conquest; however, it trivialized this new situation that undermined the sultanate’s authority in political rivalry. News of the conquest of Istanbul was welcomed by the rest of the Muslim world with great surprise and awe, which was followed by an indefinable joy triggered by the realization of a religious prediction. Declarations of conquest penned as of the conquest were embellished with descriptions of how this religious mission was completed.

25- The internal view of Ayasofya (Hagia Sophia) Mosque

Repercussions of the conquest were also almost permanently sustained in the Christian world. Early fears regarding the conquest found their place in the Western mindset and were reflected in a letter penned by the cardinal stating that all Christians and Rome were under threat and “these wild barbarians” should be stopped.56 In their eyes, the city was not Constantinople anymore; it had become the city of the Turks, or Turcopolis. However, this name would never be used by the conquerors. Istanbul was their preferred name for the city, and it was turned into Islambol through an interesting analogy. The Ottomans did not see any harm in using the names Konstantiniyye, Istanbul, and Islambol for the city. The hope that Constantinople would be recaptured by the Christians was maintained in the western world in the following years. In 1494, French King Charles VIII (d. 1498) purchased the title of Byzantine emperor from Andreas Palaiologos, who was considered the last heir of the empire. He even introduced himself as the emperor of Constantinople when he entered Rome during the Italian wars. French diplomat Savary de Brèves (1560–1628) devised plans for the conquest of Istanbul, where he lived for a long time; another diplomat, named De La Croix (d. 1704), asserted that the city could be recaptured as easily as it could be set on fire; French King Louis XIV devised serious plans for conquering Istanbul. The realization of all these dreams did not seem possible, however; extremely detailed descriptions and plans relating to the Istanbul of that period all remained in the preparatory stage.57

26- The external view of Ayasofya (Hagia Sophia) Mosque

27- Sultan Mehmed II, the Conqueror: “Sultan Mehemmed who conquered Stambol / who was supported by God Almighty.”

Thus, a well-known, cosmopolitan, crowded capital of a great and magnificent political organization, spreading into three continents and reaching the gates of Vienna in the west, was reborn in robust form. Moreover, it became a more magnificent city than the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire had been, with enormous architectural works representing a different civilization. The city turned into a metropolis, undergoing substantial physical change and preserving its complicated social structure. In other words, the city had probably initiated its second transformation process, developing in new and different ways. The city became the crowded, multilingual, and cosmopolitan capital of a new empire, which started its classical period after the conquest. Like other imperial capitals, the city was considered the “new Babel.” It became a miniature model for the idea of an empire running after the ideal of rendering one religion, one ruler, and one state dominant in the world.

The transformations the city underwent as the Ottoman capital would clearly determine its physical, social, and spiritual position. In accordance with the nomenclature tradition in Islamic literature, Konstantiniyye was referred to as Istanbul by Muslim and non-Muslim groups and named Islambol in reference to the Islamic identity of the city that was formed in the sixteenth century. Thus, in line with the understanding of its new owners, the imperial capital entered a process in which it started to gain a different social and physical texture. In the hands of its new owners, the city started expanding into the ancient peninsula in which the colorful life of the great imperial center dominated. Moreover, it became a large urban center on which sea routes and roads opening to the Mediterranean converged; various cultures amalgamated as set forth by its geographical location and large hinterland. The whole empire gradually fell under the influence of a cultural and social structure centered in Istanbul. As of the fifteenth century in particular, city life in the rural areas felt the continuous spiritual and cultural influence of the capital, which made Istanbul a point of attraction. Thanks to this feature, the city also became an economic center.58

28- The tomb of Abu Ayyub al-Ansari (Eyüp Sultan)

In the sixteenth century, the capital began to show all the colors and characteristics of the three continents into which the empire expanded. Civil life in the city was also influenced by the palace and its officials, and the city gained a character associated with the imperial family, the palace, and its surroundings. Names such as Âsitâne (Threshold of the State), Dersa‘âdet (Gate of Happiness), and Deraliyye (Lofty Gate), reflecting this characteristic of the city, were popularized. The empire and the capital were defined in an integrated manner in the works of historians, writers, and other intellectuals. The whole empire was viewed from the perspective of Istanbul and the palace in some of these works. Political and social events were generally presented as Istanbul-centered. Historians preferred to write the history of the dynasty in combination with Istanbul.

29- Sultan Mehmed II in Hippodrome (Hünername)

All of the above-mentioned are manifested through an abundant information flow in sources relating to the condition of Istanbul, its social transformation, and events occurring in the city. In these sources, events are narrated within the triangle of statesmen, the Kapıkulus and ulama (scholars). The contribution and role of the civilians are evaluated within this framework. Cülus (accession bonus) distributed by the sultans, their death, visits to the city on certain days of the week, inspections, activities of prominent statesmen, reconstruction efforts, issues of subsistence, market dynamism, welcoming foreign envoys, campaign ceremonies of the army, big festivities performed on occasions such as palace-related weddings and circumcision ceremonies, natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods,” political turmoil and urban uprisings triggered by the Kapıkulus constitute the main subjects of these sources. Thus, they provide important clues for understanding an event- and people-based history of Istanbul and its main turning points in detail.

There was a gradual increase in the number of historical documents that were partly written within a general and daily framework and appear as private or official literary samples of the imperial era after the conquest. They demonstrate the history of Ottoman Istanbul in greater detail than is available for earlier periods. Observations of western travelers are other indispensable sources on the history of Istanbul.59 Rich official document collections provide data on many social and economic issues not touched on by books, the commercial capacity of this trade-port city considered the liveliest gateway to the East.60 There are significant gaps in the literature on Istanbul despite the platitude of books written about the city. In the same vein, hundreds of books containing court records called şer’iye sicilleri reveal social structure and social relations and also shape the direction of studies on Istanbul.61 Considering that these sources are not sufficiently used, there exists a large area of research that could assist in comprehending and revealing many aspects of Ottoman Istanbul.

30- Fatih Mosque (Gouffier)

After the conquest, Istanbul merged into an organic integration with Galata, Üsküdar, and Eyüp, which had a special administrative status, and was turned into a city administered by the Kadı. The judicial status of the city was determined accordingly. Located inside the walls, namely on the Historic Peninsula, and officially referred to as nefs-i Istanbul, Istanbul thus became physically, administratively, and legally unified. Sultan Mehmed II revivified the city through population transfers and great reconstruction activities, enforced some new rules for non-Muslims, supported settlement in the city by maintaining the Orthodox Patriarchate, and tried to make the city an Islamic center by constructing mosques and madrassas. His attempts to bring an Islamic character to the city were attributed to his aim to establish a capital completely different from its earlier conditions. As mentioned above, it was believed that the curse on the city would be eliminated following the complete reconstruction of the city. The Hagia Sophia was left standing, as it was heralded by the prophet that it would become a Muslim mosque. However, all other buildings were to be demolished.

When Sultan Mehmed II set out to reconstruct the city, he was aware of all these convictions that influenced Ottoman public opinion. However, he signaled that he would follow a more realistic path for the reconstruction of the city, setting aside all these rumors. Hence, he did not refrain from starting the immediate and organized reconstruction of the new Ottoman Istanbul. Moreover, he preferred to utilize most ruined Byzantine buildings for different purposes. Churches and monasteries needed by the non-Muslims living in the city were left intact. Ruined churches and some monasteries were converted into mosques. The first significant transformation process in the city was thus started under Ottoman rule.62

In fact, there was no apparent situation that could change the overall physical position of Istanbul. Mehmed II did not create the Ottoman capital from scratch; rather, he built on the Byzantine heritage. For this, administrative buildings, marketplaces, and shrines needed to be determined as the main core. The ancient settlement already had some of these three main elements. Mehmed II’s important contribution to the plan of the ancient city was the construction, beginning in 1456, of a bedesten (covered bazaar) in the district where the markets had been located in the Byzantine era. This bedesten would eventually developed into the Grand Bazaar. The main shrine of the city was the Hagia Sophia, and there was no change in the old core area. The Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque and underwent substantial repair. However, Mehmed II thought of another religious structure that would be visible from everywhere and serve as an alternative to the Hagia Sophia. The location for this structure was the hill on which the Church of the Holy Apostles was located and the Byzantine emperors were buried. This church was limited to the Orthodox Patriarchate; however, the Patriarch reiterated that he could not shelter in such a ruined building.

Thus, he was directed to another building in 1455, and Mehmed II constructed a complex of buildings called the Külliye in 1463–1470. Comprising a mosque, a madrassa, a tabhane (guest house for travelling clergymen), imaret (hostel for pilgrims, travelers, and the homeless), darüşşifa (hospital), marketplace, and bathhouse, this enormous complex constituted the first imperial transformation of Istanbul. Thanks to its location, this complex became the first emergent part of the city’s future historical silhouette.63 With the construction of this complex, the religious area of Istanbul was moved from the Hagia Sophia to this district. The Hagia Sophia became the private shrine of the dynasty, since it was located next to the new palace. The complex of Mehmed II maintained its status as the first important space where religious circles gathered. In later years, when the imperial ceremonies were revived, Fatih Mosque and the mausoleum of Mehmed II, which were located in that complex, would constitute an important point for imperial visits extending into Eyüp Sultan.

31- The schema showing Galata and inside the walls from Fenerbahçe to Ortaköy, Marmara Sea, two banks of Bosporus, Üsküdar, two shores of the Golden Horn, the names  of the districts, historical gates of Istanbul, and the islands (Piri Reis)

32- Topkapı Palace (TSMK, nr. 17/727)

In his new capital, Mehmed II ordered the construction of his residence north of Tauri Forum, today’s Beyazıt Square. Called the Old Palace, this residence remained outside the core administrative space of ancient Istanbul. However, the construction of Saray-ı Cedid (the New Palace) completely changed the case. The location chosen for the New Palace became another part of the historical silhouette together with Fatih Mosque.64 The New Palace construction took place at about the same time (1465–1478) as construction of the mosque. Thus, the core of the administrative space of the enormous empire, which extended into three continents, was created thanks to the construction of the palace hosting the Ottoman dynasty from the Classical period to the Tanzimat. This part of the city was referred to as südde-i sa‘âdet (threshold of happiness), der-sa‘âdet (gate of happiness), and der-aliyye (supreme gate) and associated with the name of the city. Viziers and sheiks constructed building complexes and mosques in various districts on the order of Mehmed II. The Grand Vizier Mahmud Pasha had a mosque, an imaret, and a bathhouse constructed in his name; Gedik Ahmed Pasha and Karamani Mehmed Pasha sponsored similar complexes. Mahmud Pasha also led the establishment of another grand marketplace. Mosques and mausoleums were constructed in this area upon the discovery of Eyüp Sultan’s grave; in this way, the foundations of a new Ottoman/Turkish town were laid beside the city walls.

As these construction activities began to change the physical appearance of the city, the population of Istanbul was also increasing. New neighborhoods were established in new settlement areas, which were filled with people through both forced and voluntary migration. These transfers involved not only Muslims; people who had been fugitives were also encouraged to return to the city. Settlement of Jews and Greeks was realized by allocating special neighborhoods for these groups. In addition, people from some of the conquered territories were required to move to the capital. The Orthodox Patriarchate was settled in Istanbul as before. It was important that the capital constituted a religious center for non-Muslims owing to their religious orders. Later on a similar organization would be created for the Armenians and Jews. These efforts determined the character of the main districts of the city during Mehmed II’s reign. The Golden Horn port district and the marketplace including Kapalıçarşı had become the main central districts. Storing goods that arrived by sea, the port was connected to the Grand Bazaar, where the caravans met. This district became the liveliest trade and shopping area of the city, and has remained so until the present day. The census of 1455, carried out on Mehmed II’s order, recorded the first signs of city’s major transformation into a metropolis.65 In his vakıf (foundation) charter, he considered “bringing a city into being” equal to “conciliating the people.” This is quite striking in terms of physical structure and political mission gained by the imperial capital.

Entering into a transformative process under Mehmed II, Istanbul completed its genuine appearance, from a classical perspective, during the reign of Mehmed II’s son, Beyazid II. However, the city encountered problems during this process, just as all capitals do. Mehmed II’s death resulted in a political struggle.66 Social and political turmoil erupted during the enthronement of Beyazid II in 1481, but did not last long and did not have a long-lasting effect on the city. A more significant danger was manifested through natural disasters affecting the imperial and physical appearance of the city. The city had been subject to natural disasters throughout its history. Earthquakes were the most devastating disasters, causing the complete destruction of grand buildings. Istanbul was a city of earthquakes. After the city was conquered by the Ottomans, epidemics hampered its recovery process. The plague epidemic affected the city for a long time following the conquest, which hindered the settlement process as well. However, this situation could be compensated through population transfers. Earthquakes occasionally played a devastating role in the city.

The new rulers of the capital faced devastating earthquakes for the first time in the 1480s. Described by Ottoman chronicle writers in excited terms, the series of earthquakes started in 1488. Triggering the thoughts that the end of the world was near, these earthquakes were quasi-symptoms of apocalyptic omens associated with Istanbul. The year 900, the 10th Islamic century, was approaching. These tremors and some political events were the first harbingers of the apocalypse. A formidable earthquake called the “little apocalypse” caused great destruction in the city in 1509 and was at first considered the end of the world by city residents. The dome of Fatih Mosque cracked open during the first earthquake.67

In the earthquake of 1509, a great many people died trapped under debris, and all buildings were damaged. Nearly 1,000 residences were destroyed, and the number of deaths reached 5,000, and the number of the wounded was approximately 10,000. The city walls were almost demolished. The walls and tower of Galata were also damaged. The mosque, constructed as the second Ottoman imperial building by Beyazid II, was heavily damaged just as Fatih Külliyesi. The church near the Hippodrome was destroyed by the earthquake. Six pillars in the Hippodrome, including the pillars of Arcadius (Dikilitaş) and Diplokionion, were damaged or destroyed. The number of ruined masjids and mosques reached 100. Traces of this great destruction were not eliminated for a long time. Beyazid II mobilized debris removal and rebuilding efforts. The documentary record indicates that 60,000 workers, 11,000 assistants, and 3,000 artisans worked day and night to rebuild Istanbul, and this high-speed work was completed in June 1510.68 The earthquake of 1509 was devastating for the city, which was at the beginning of its imperial transformation. The entire city underwent a reconstruction process, and Byzantine structures destroyed by the earthquake were replaced by Ottoman-style buildings. Thus, ironically, this catastrophic disaster played an important role in shaping the capital. The city was entering a new era in which it would take on a completely Ottoman character. However, Western descriptions emphasizing the city’s Christian identity continued for a long time. The Christian face of the city was continually repeated in European plans and maps of Istanbul.

33- Sultan’s great palace, a scene from the hillside of Galata. On the left side the Maiden’s tower and Üsküdar district

The reconstruction process was overshadowed by important political incidents. Although the power struggle among the offspring of Beyazid II initiated new social turmoil in the capital, which was still recovering from the earthquake, the dust settled upon Yavuz Sultan Selim when he took over power from his father. Istanbul witnessed a new reconstruction movement reminiscent of its maritime character during the short reign of Yavuz Sultan Selim, who spent his time on two long military campaigns. The old shipyard in the Haliç was refurbished and its capacity was expanded. After that, this shipyard played a determinant role in the history of the city, since its active sea trade contributed to the growth of the largest port city in the empire. The port gradually became so busy that some observers gave the number of incoming and outgoing ships as 800 per day. Istanbul became the largest trade center of the empire, which was in accordance with its imperial appearance.

Undoubtedly, Yavuz Sultan Selim tried to make Istanbul the biggest cultural center in the Islamic world as well as a religious center. A myriad of scholars and artisans were brought to Istanbul following the Iran and Egypt campaigns. Cultural mobility in Istanbul had started during Mehmed II’s reign and continued during Beyazid II’s reign. For scholars, clergymen, artists, and musicians who were members of important centers in Islamic civilization, Istanbul appeared as a dazzling city that provided great opportunities in what was nearly the extreme west of the Islamic world. Yavuz Sultan Selim tried to bring forward this appearance by transferring scholars and artists from Iran and Cairo, the center of the Arabic world. He even sent the Abbasid caliph to Istanbul. This was an attempt to grant Istanbul a status similar to that of Cairo within the Islamic world.69 He attempted to demonstrate to everyone that Istanbul was now the new center of the caliphate and the main administrative center outside the Islamic holy lands. Through his conquests, Istanbul became the center of the Islamic world. Yavuz Sultan Selim did not take over the power of the caliphate. He did not consolidate religious and political functions in his hands, like the Mamluk Sultanate, by keeping the caliph aside. After staying in Istanbul for some time, the caliph was sent to Cairo during the first years of Sultan Süleyman’s reign, and lived there forgotten. As a great conqueror of the world, Süleyman the Magnificent planned to take over this power. He was determined to make Istanbul the main center of the Islamic world by incorporating his sultanic and caliphal powers, unlike his father.

34- Sultan Süleyman I, the Magnificent (1560s)  (Topkapı Palace Museum Library, no. H 2134)

35- Süleymaniye Mosque (Flandin)

Istanbul advanced rapidly as a dazzling center of the imperial era during Süleyman’s 46-year reign;70 it also experienced the biggest growth during that time. Besides undergoing substantial reconstruction, the city also grew politically and socially. Süleyman’s large-scale campaigns in the west and the east etched deep traces in the social and cultural structure of Istanbul. Foreign travelers and diplomatic missions assisted in reintroducing the city to the Western world as a splendid city in a unique way. It is evident that this had an impact on the present-day image of Istanbul. Western and eastern envoys and special trade representatives gathered there and laid the grounds of an idiosyncratic life. In particular, Galata regained its old title of Little Europe. During this period, the empire defined its political values and mission within a specific framework, and implemented them in Istanbul. A new religious threat emerged in the East and terrorized all of Anatolia. The state’s attitude in the face of this threat increased sensitivity to its own denominational system of beliefs. Counter-practices were struggled against. This situation also provided the second important transformation for Istanbul. The colossal mosque and külliye (Süleymaniye Mosque), constructed during the sultan’s seniority, proceedings and punishments brought by religious sensitivity, new protocols and bureaucratic practices, and works to explain taxes according to religion are the most striking examples of this.

36- Two banks of the Golden Horn: Inside the walls and Galata. On the lower right side of the picture there are the names of the buildings, the squares, and the districts shown with numbers on the picture.

Visiting Istanbul in 1503, a traveler described the city as “the most beautiful and flawless city not only in Asia but in the whole world.” The Habsburg envoy Busbecq, who came to Istanbul during Süleyman’s reign, remembered the city with great awe in the following words: “God created Istanbul so that it could become the capital of the world.” It is on the European side but faces Asia as well. Egypt and Africa are located on its right, and they are connected to Istanbul by sea despite the distance.71 These last statements clearly describe the imperial character of the city. Ibn Kemal, the Ottoman historian, şeyhülislam, and contemporary of the abovementioned persons, wrote in his history of Istanbul (in which he mentioned the conquest of the city) that the world-renowned şehr-i Konstantin (city of Constantine) was converted into a capital suitable for becoming dârü’l-hilâfe (the city of the caliphate). According to him, the sultan, also the caliphate during that century, put out the fire sparked by his rage with his kindness. After the conquest, Mehmed II “destroyed here by force and fixed it with love” and turned the city into a rose garden with his kindness after setting it ablaze in his rage.72 In the same period, İdris-i Bitlisî stated that Konstantiniyye, the center of Anatolia, was on a par with great countries, and that this city, as the bearer of good religious tidings, was further made sacred by the Hagia Sophia. He provided a comprehensive account of the Hagia Sophia and the establishment of the city’s legends.73 Another traveler tried to describe the sixteenth century silhouette of Istanbul by referring to “minarets extending into the skies and domes which appear as golden balls from afar.” An anonymous author who was critical of the Süleyman period identified Istanbul with a tree root and the rest of the country as its branches, stating that the malice emerging from the roots was immediately reflected in the entire tree.74

Istanbul was quite different from its Western counterparts for European travelers. The Ottoman capital had no magnificent palaces, residential areas consisted of wooden houses, and the street system looked complicated and did not seem to be in line with western standards; however, enormous mosques and külliyes constituted an exception.75 A British observer offered a different perspective, noting that “residences and palaces of the viziers are surrounded by such splendid and high walls that they look like a city more than a palace. The interiors of these ugly-looking buildings are furnished with the most precious objects in the world. The Turks say that they do this not for the visual pleasure of visitors but for their own need. They imply that Christian palaces are open to everyone and their interiors are not that beautiful.”76 Not only travelers’ observations but also works reaching the present day prove that the Süleyman era was a long period of time that entirely determined the development of Istanbul as an imperial city. Starting with building the Sultan Selim mosque in 1522 in his father’s name, Süleyman ordered the respective construction of imperial shrines directed by Mimar Sinan during his 46-year rule. He had the Şehzade Mosque built (1544–1548) for his son, Crown Prince Mehmed, who passed away in Manisa. This heralded the construction of the colossal külliye in his name a short time later (the Süleymaniye Mosque, built in 1550–1557). Locations chosen for these colossal mosques were complementary to the classical Istanbul silhouette. The mosques of Şehzade Mehmed and Süleymaniye were placed in the mid-area connecting the line beginning at the Hagia Sophia and Beyazid II Mosque and ending at the Fatih mosque. In this way, Süleyman the Magnificent placed his own stamp on the capital. These were followed by large and small charity buildings and religious structures initiated by other viziers and female members of the dynasty.77

Fixation about the aqueducts and procurement of sufficient water to the city constituted another significant reconstruction activity during Süleyman’s rule. Considered to be for the welfare of the capital’s residents, such works were another sign of the increasing population and serious water shortage in the city during this period. Thirty years later, an author pointed to this situation, which was responsible for the increasing population in Istanbul, in one of the documents of the period, Selânikî Tarihi (Chronicle by Selânikî), which provided a commentary on the city’s water supply. The idea that Istanbul’s prosperity and comfort served as an important factor for emigration was imprinted in the minds of administrators henceforth. Reasons such as disrupted public order or financial restrictions in the countryside, a large job market and trade activity in the city made the city the biggest destination for migration, as is the case today. This process could not be prevented in spite of all measures taken to do so. This would increase the city’s population substantially in the seventeenth century, and it would reach a level comparable to those of large western cities. New difficulties brought by population increase indubitably influenced the physical face of the city.

37- Istanbul (Cassas, Pera Museum)

The Ottoman historian Selânikî stated that he was distressed by the high population increase in Istanbul around 1600 and described the increase by referring to water transferred to the city as a pretext: When your highness, the sultan, understood that the water issue was not solved, he asked for an explanation from the Grand Vizier Ali Pasha. Addressing the pasha during an urgent council meeting in Kağıthane, he sternly asked the pasha why the worker in chief did not do his job and was imprisoned. The pasha replied, “He was detained for questioning in order to understand whether he overspent the resources without informing me. We shall see what his reply will be,” and added the following reasons:

In fact, there is no greater benevolence and good than bringing water to the city. It will happen with the help of God. However, your highness, upon the transfer of water and construction of fountains in each neighborhood of Istanbul, not only people from nearby cities but also people from Iran and Arab countries will flow into the city. They will impoverish the subsistence of the city, and thus it will be impossible to provide sufficient food for the crowded population. The livelihood of the soldiers would be in financial shortage. Therefore, the prices of goods and food would increase and it would not be possible to enforce officially fixed prices. Istanbul would be full of impoverished people. If the peasantry leaves the countryside for Istanbul, there will be no production of agriculture. These kinds of issues can be eliminated during the reign of the holy sultan; however, this problem will lead to great difficulties during the rule of following sultans.

There is no other source to verify this anecdote; however, a clue as to the reasons for conveying it is revealed in the following statement: “In fact, they heralded the future shortage that would befall the sultanate after thirty years.”78

During the second half of the sixteenth century, migration began to affect the physical structure of the city. Reasons for the population growth inside the city walls were obviously related to the opportunities for employment and a prosperous life. Furthermore, the number of foreign missions arriving in the city was increasing. Military activity could also make the city quite busy at times. Official records from these periods note that some neighborhoods suffered from dense and unplanned settlement. Some residences were built adjacent to the city walls. Government decrees persistently advised administrators to prevent unplanned construction and refrain from activities that blemished the city. These decrees included instructions related to construction methods and materials. It regulated elements ranging from the distance between residences to store and house cornices.79 There is no information regarding whether these instructions were followed, and what kind of a system was used to follow up these practices. However, the important fact is that urban planning was directed by the state.

Problems caused by crowding necessitated new measures in relation to the cleaning of roads and streets during this period.80 New decrees were issued in relation to cleaning the roads at a maximum level, preventing the flow of wastewater into the streets, and maintaining the roads.81 Becoming further established during Süleyman’s rule, the imperial period established itself completely as Istanbul-centered in the following periods. While the empire was expanding with difficulty to its furthest borders, as the center of the empire, Istanbul witnessed a great amount of turmoil and unrest. Social transformation prescribed by the new age engendered serious failures in parallel to military and political developments. These failures were, without a doubt, caused by economic and commercial developments affecting the world during that period, since Istanbul was the leading location for a commercial colonization, which started to gain a universal scale. Overseas trade from the West could not have penetrated Istanbul. This area of activity was gradually globalizing more than ever before and would cease to be the main determinant economic sphere in the Mediterranean-centered world, to which the capital was organically connected.82

In the last quarter of the sixteenth century, Istanbul witnessed critical events in deep disparity that were caused by apocalyptic expectations evoked by the Hijri year 1000 and understood to impact their mindset and behavior patterns.83 Flamboyant shows were performed on the occasion of cülus (Murad III and Mehmed III) and ceremonies (Şehzade Mehmed’s circumcision in 1582),84 not only for the sake of flamboyance but also to counteract this desperate atmosphere. While Istanbul residents were amusing themselves with these festivities and shows, the emergence of economic difficulties was preparing to turn despair into violence. Long-lasting Iran campaigns that started in 1578 caused a great burden.85 Complaints by the Kapıkulu classes (salaried sipahis and janissaries) were gradually increasing. A large-scale uprising (the Beylerbeyi Vakası) broke out in 1589 as a result of all these negativities. The uprising was mainly caused by salary payments in coins of low value, and left the palace in a difficult situation. It also affected civilians. A fire that broke out during the uprising caused great destruction; extensive looting took place as well.86

This was the first time that an uprising questioned the dynasty’s authority. It was the first of a number of similar incidents that the imperial capital would encounter in the following centuries. A plague epidemic also broke out, which must have further increased people’s despair. Uprisings in 1591 and 1593 and the accompanying fires almost destroyed the city. The war against the Habsburgs came to an end in 1592, which created a comfortable atmosphere in the city, and thus made Istanbul the center of military activities once again. Mehmed III joined the Hungarian campaign as the leader of his army, as if demonstrating that he was on the path of his ancestors. Large religious ceremonies were performed on this occasion.87 The capture of Eğri [Eger] Castle and the Haçova [Mezőkeresztes] victory in 1596 were celebrated with splendid festivities, and construction of a large new complex—Yeni Camii (the New Mosque)—was begun, probably as a token of gratitude showing that all negative expectations were eliminated, in 1598. Construction was interrupted for a long time and was only completed 66 years later. Elaborating on the conquest of Istanbul in a history written during these years, Hoca Sadeddin Efendi (the Ottoman historian and şeyhülislam) mentioned the characteristics of the city and wrote that it was now known worldwide and was “the greatest city beautified and developed by the constructions of the sultans” (a’zam-ı bilâd ve mi’mâr-ı adl-i selâtîn ile ma’mûr ve âbâd) and had been a great capital and imperial city since antiquity. There are hills and plains here, it has a mild climate and clean water, no other city comparable to it exists in the world, it is a city exceeding the standard with its physical structure and neighborhoods. Many poets praised it. A poem by Yahya Bey started:

Konstantiniyye is the name of the beauty
The crown of Great Osman

Two seas turned the city into a shelter
One white88and the other black

The city stepped in the sea
but the sea did not reach the knee of the beauty

(Adı Kostantiniye’dir anın
Tahtgâhıdır Âl-i Osman’ın

İki bahr eylemiş o şehri penâh
Biri Bahr-i Sefid ve biri Siyah

Girdi bahr içine o şehir amma
Dizine çıkmadı anın derya). 89

38- From Topkapı Palace to Edirnekapı. A scene from the hillside of Kasımpaşa (Mayer)

39- Sultanahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque) and Square (Vanmour, Doha, Orientalist Museum)

Ottoman writers regarded the capital as standing on the threshold of a new imperial transformation. This transformation was thought to be based on economic and social problems caused by political and military incidents. Safavid threats, in particular, to capture eastern territories with the agreement of 1590, problems caused by long wars, and Celali uprisings that broke out in Anatolia caused an Istanbul-centered pessimism to prevail again. Bad news from the western front was reinforced with the loss of captured eastern territories; serious conflicts emerged between soldiers in Istanbul; power struggles among the pashas contributed to this pessimism as well. The incidents of Yemişçi Hasan Pasha and Saatçi Hasan Pasha in 1603 were typical examples of these struggles. There is a great amount of information in the documentary record suggesting that some circles gave up hope for the Ottoman dynasty and new alternatives were discussed.90 The Celali threat to the city had a great impact on the formation of these views. Attempting to describe his home city in such a tumultuous environment, Âşık Mehmed undertook the revision and analysis of the knowledge of Arabic geographers regarding the city outside of this social turmoil. This was not a useless effort, as it was a different reflection of the globalizing cultural understanding of the period. Aşık Mehmed predicted that the capital of the empire would preserve its imperial status eternally. However, some of his contemporaries strove to shift all these negativities onto the city itself based on the unprecedented social turmoil.

In fact, the interest of Ottoman intellectuals was not transcendental at the time. Developments in Europe—emerging in conjunction with the discovery of the New World and new knowledge about Central Asia and the Far East—got off the monopoly of administrative circles within political planning, and were made public through translations and compilations of works. All these developments resulted in better understanding of the position of Istanbul. The history of French kings, Hungarian history, Spanish explorations of America, and new knowledge on Central Asian societies91 seemed to open the eyes of the Ottoman intellectuals in Istanbul. Maps, such as the atlas by Hungarian Ali Reis and the sixteenth-century world map by Pîrî Reis, granted an important idea on Istanbul’s position in this huge world to the politicians as well as the intellectuals. As an Ottoman bureaucrat and intellectual who witnessed long campaigns and turbulent times in the late sixteenth century, Âşık Mehmed tried to convey the surrounding world through the narration of Arabic geographer Abu al-Fida, albeit not as well as Kâtib Çelebi. He did not know about countries and cities outside the Ottoman Empire; however, he definitely contributed to discussions on Istanbul.

40- İstanbul

Following an introduction titled “Konstantiniyye” just as classical Islamic geographers, Âşık Mehmed explained that the city was a Greek center (kaide-i Rum) before the Ottoman conquest, and now was the capital of the sultanate of Ottoman sultans (selâtin-i Osmaniye’nin dârü’s-saltanatı), and added that he would convey the knowledge of Arabic geographers regarding the city followed by a description of the capital at the time of the conquest. He grounded his description of the city on the story of the establishment of Konstantiniyye predicated by Ottoman historians İdris-i Bitlisî and Hoca Sadeddin Efendi. He added information regarding the contemporary situation of the locations mentioned in the story. He noted, by quoting his father, that the foundation of the Hagia Sophia was supported with posts to protect it from earthquakes, that it had underground chambers and such chambers could also be found under some palaces, and that boats were discovered in the old shrine.92

Following the story of the establishment and construction of the Hagia Sophia, he wrote about the city based on Abu al-Fida’s work; he also described the situation and location of places mentioned in these works during his era. For instance, he wrote in Takvîmü’l-büldân that the pillar Çemberlitaş was the pillar between the present-day Ali Paşa Camii and Valide Sultan Bathhouse known as Dikilitaş, and that it was round, made of red stones, and wrapped with many iron belts. He wrote that another pillar was located in At Meydanı, which is close to the Hagia Sophia, and there did not exist any bronze horse or rider on it anymore. He tried to update old information by noting that there was no such statue on other pillars either. Afterward he relayed information provided by Arabic geographers regarding the physical situation of the city, and quoted some of the hadiths on the good news of the conquest. Ebu Hureyre’s account related to one of these hadiths. He attempted to interpret this apocalyptic hadith in his own words. The hadith referred not to Istanbul but to Rumiyye (Rome) as a place bordered by the sea on one side only, to which the apocalypse would not come unless 70,000 people attacked it.93 He predicted that Konstantiniyye would be seized earlier, but that the end of the world would come with the conquest of Rome. Âşık Mehmed did not embrace the negative associations and signs regarding the city. This attitude may be what motivated him to provide a revised description of the colossal buildings of Ottoman Istanbul after the conquest.

41- Inside the walls, Galata, and two banks of Bosporus from Bulgurlu Hill (Üsküdar) (Doha, Orientalist Museum)

At the outset he remarked that 148 years, 10 months, and 13 days (1597) had passed since the conquest, and that the capital had turned into “reşk-i cennet-i ulyâ ile şey’en fe-şey’en nâdire-i dünyâ”—an enviable place, like the topmost layer of heaven, and the most precious part of the world within this period.94 He also touched on the conversion of the Hagia Sophia into a mosque, the construction of another minaret with a balcony by Selim II, and the construction of two minarets, one with a balcony, by Murad III. Following references to the construction of the Old and New Palaces, he discussed the newly built mosques. He described the Fatih, Eyüp Sultan, and Ebülvefa Mosques, and he provided a detailed comparative architectural description of the Beyazıt II, Selim I, Şehzade Mehmet, and Süleymaniye complexes. After that he gave a brief account of the bedesten (covered bazaar) and the city walls. He enumerated all 25 wall-gates in order, from the Ayvansaray district to the Haliç coastline (Eyüp kapısı, Balat, Fener, Eğrikapı, Yenikapı, Ayakapı, Cibali kapısı, Unkapanı, Ayazma, Odunkapı, Zindankapı, Balıkpazarıkapısı, Çıfıt/Cuhutkapısı, Ahırkapı, Çatladıkapı, Kumkapı, Langakapısı, Yedikulekapısı, Silivrikapı, Topkapı, the other Yenikapı, Eğrikapı ve Edirnekapı).

Âşık Mehmed defined ancient Istanbul as medîne-i Kostantiniyye (the city of Constantine), and two other medînes (towns) as Galata and Eyüp. He also discussed the Haliç (the Strait of Galata in public parlance), describing it as a tongue reaching Eyüp through Galata and Istanbul, and noted that the closest districts to the Haliç were Balıkpazarı, Zindankapı, and the location across Odunkapı, and that the distance between was less than a mile. He described the walls of Galata, the mosques, the armory, the shipyard, and the gates in the walls of Galata (İskele, Kürekçi, Azap, Kasımpaşa, Kule, Tophane, Tabakhane, Kurşunlumahzen, Karaköy, and Balık kapıları). Then he described Üsküdar, which is on the other side of the city.95 His description is important because it provides the perspective of a curious Ottoman intellectual and geographer. In a sense, Âşık Mehmed described the city by elaborating about its ancient roots and emphasizing its historical continuity. He also developed an understanding that would support the image of the capital of the eternal state, which would endure until the apocalypse. It is uncertain whether the fact that the apocalypse did not occur in Hijri year 1000 (1592) had an impact on this understanding. However, there is no reason not to think that such an understanding lay in the strong emphasis on the holiness of the city and its zealous description. As discussed below, some authors of the period were not of the same opinion.

Istanbul in the Era of Crisis and Transformation

The seventeenth century was a period of transformation not only for the Ottoman Empire in general but also, probably, for Istanbul. Fluctuations caused by the West’s expansion policy, which affected the entire world, reached the capital of the Ottoman Empire, which was on the West’s immediate border and the starting point of the legendary East. The city was entering a new era in which it would gain a completely cosmopolitan structure and in which population pressure was felt on a large scale. As R. Mantran noted, “Istanbul, the largest and proudest city in the world, was the center of a serious reaction against the labor pain of the modern world.”96

At the beginning of this century, when the balance of power changed, Ahmed I, enthroned at a young age in 1603, witnessed the empire’s ongoing war on three fronts. When Ahmed was enthroned, he had not yet been circumcised. He was circumcised fourteen days after his enthronement, and the people of Istanbul witnessed a great ceremony and festivities on this occasion for the first time.97 He did not kill his brother Mustafa and showed that he did not adopt his father’s most controversial tradition of fratricide. He started construction of a mosque in 1609 in order to counter the pessimistic atmosphere dominant in the country owing to serious domestic turmoil and wars on foreign fronts.98 Putting aside the New Mosque, the construction of which was greatly delayed after the construction of the Süleymaniye Mosque, the construction of this stupendous and excellent shrine by an Ottoman sultan after a long time seemed as if it had been planned deliberately. While this large social complex made history as the most ornamented building in the city; it was located behind the main view of Istanbul. The hills of the city and its historical silhouette appealed to those facing the Haliç and Üsküdar.

For those traveling to the city from the Anatolian side (or rather Üsküdar), there was not a lot to see. The city was veiled by the Hagia Sophia from this side. However, it made a monumental impression on people coming from Marmara. This new and extremely large mosque welcomed, before the Hagia Sophia, passengers arriving in the city from the west by sea. The symbolic meaning of Sultan Ahmet Mosque was stupendous. It was the last large shrine of the historical city. Successive sultans had not planned for the construction of such a large mosque. In this way the classical face of Ottoman Istanbul was formed. New buildings continued to be added after that; however, they had less importance. During the construction of this colossal mosque, the capital was under the effect of a great depressing atmosphere. Turmoil in Anatolia became a major social crisis. Ahmed I gave hope to the people of Istanbul by moving to Anatolia against some unruly Celalî leaders.99 Unsurprisingly, the people attempted to eliminate the negative atmosphere through religious practices. The cover of Kâbe was prepared in Istanbul for the first time and sent to Mecca following a grand ceremony. The old cover and some holy artifacts were brought to Istanbul, and the drinking of alcohol was prohibited.100 These steps appeared to be related to the desired spiritual atmosphere in the capital. It was estimated that the city would provide an example to the entire empire as a capital where a pure form of Islam was practiced. Some ulama demanded encouragement of a social life that was suitable for a city that was the center of the caliphate and the administrative capital of the only great state in the Islamic world. The impact of these ideas would become widespread, feeding off the period of turmoil, and would be supported by many in the palace.

Istanbul was probably faced with large-scale events for the first time following Ahmed I’s death. Disorder and power struggles at the palace undermined the powerful image of the sultan. The dynasty itself started to become influential with all members and elements. New problems caused by this, unsuccessful military campaigns, and the rising power of rural pashas laid the groundwork for a series of events that affected Istanbul deeply. During this period, Istanbul residents witnessed, for the first time, the enthronement of the sultan’s brother via the council formed by a grand vizier and şeyhülislam and the dethronement of a sultan (Mustafa I, 1617–1618) owing to his mental deficiency.101 The murder of Osman II, who was enthroned in Mustafa’s place, unleashed additional tumultuous events.102 Istanbul experienced total chaos during this period; uprisings of the sipahis and janissaries, the re-enthronement of the mentally ill Mustafa I, subsequent revolts, and lootings created an apocalyptic atmosphere in the city. Moreover, a plague outbreak was said to cost 1,000 lives per day. Unstable climate conditions all over the world also had an impact on Istanbul during this period. The Bosphorus froze in February 1621, and residents were able to cross it on foot between Üsküdar and Istanbul.103 Cold weather brought famine and a rise in prices. Starting with the murder of Osman II, the outbreak of tumultuous events completely disrupted public order in Istanbul.104 Istanbul was not freed from this turmoil until Murad IV took iron-fisted control. Nonetheless, a terrorizing atmosphere encouraged by this state prevailed in the city. Coffeehouses, which had begun to function as gathering places in the city’s developing social life, were closed, and tobacco and alcohol were prohibited, as was going out at night without a lantern.105 This enforced peace and quiet was subverted following Murad IV’s death in 1640. The unpredictable behavior of Sultan Ibrahim further contributed to the disruption of public order. Major tumultuous events broke out during the intensifying struggle with Venice and dragged Istanbul into chaos again.106

The enthronement of Mehmed IV at an early age resulted in the intensification of anarchy and power struggles. Widespread social unrest shook Istanbul, which also faced a serious foreign threat for the first time during this period. The strait of Çanakkale, militarily crowding due to the Cretan War and the heart of Istanbul, was blockaded by the Venetian fleet.107 This created serious problems in Istanbul. Trade almost came to a halt, and purchasing power decreased. War expenses followed these problems and made the emergence of social unrest inevitable. The Sultan Ahmet incident in 1648 was invoked by the sipahis, who were later suppressed by the janissaries.108 Thus, the influence of the janissaries increased in Istanbul. The incident had repercussions in the countryside as well; the sipahi groups marched toward Istanbul under the leadership of Gürcü Abdünnebi; the city experienced nervous and dreadful days owing to this threat. The Battle of Üsküdar broke out between the insurgents arriving in Bulgurlu and the janissaries; the insurgents lost the fight in 1649.109 This conflict was followed by the uprising of another nonmilitary group. Tradesmen marched toward the palace to protest coins and heavy taxes.110 Large upheavals broke out following the murder of Kösem Sultan under the pretext that “she conspired in order to change the government.”111 The fleet failed to repel the Venetians in the strait of Çanakkale in 1655, which left the city open to threat. Therefore, the residents of Istanbul were alarmed. Blockage of the seaways caused a serious famine in the city. The bloody incident of 1656 called the Çınar Vakası (or the Waq-Waq Tree Incident) dragged the city into utter turmoil. Çınar Vakası broke out due to the nonpayment of ulufe (salaries) and gradually escalated owing to the ambiguous atmosphere of war, and the city was plundered in totality.112 Considering that Mehmed IV could not take control of the incident in this pessimistic atmosphere, it was planned that he would be dethroned and replaced with his brother, Süleyman. This plan was discovered and prevented, and its ringleaders were executed.113 People also involved in this unprecedentedly influential incident. The incident tended to settle down upon the accession of the Köprülüler.

42- Istanbul, a scene from the Embassy of Netherlands (Guer)

The great fire of July 1660 in Eminönü-Odunkapı or near Ayazmakapı had an impact on approximately two-thirds of the Historic Peninsula. It caused destruction in Eminönü, Beyazıt, At Meydanı, Mahmutpaşa, Tahtakale, Ahırkapı, Davutpaşa, Kumkapı, and even Samatya. A considerable number of people lost their lives, and residences were burned down. Some people took shelter in the Sultan Ahmet and Hagia Sophia mosque, but others were not as fortunate; those sheltering in some stone mosques and madrassas lost their lives in the spreading blaze.114 Famine and drought followed. Military failure, domestic upheavals and disasters were ascribed to religious indifference. This situation helped increase the strength of the Kadızadeli movement. Thus, radical religious doctrine gradually increased in strength; it ascribed the course of events to the nonobservance of religion. Dating back to Süleyman’s era, this doctrine (advocated by Imam Birgivi and his followers, the Salafi movement) began to penetrate not only religious but also official circles. Followed by the public as well, various discussions occurred between the representatives of the movement, referred to as the Kadızadeliler and supported by many in the palace, and opposing connoisseurs of the order. Considered a savior by Ottoman historians, Köprülü Mehmed Pasha took control of the situation and restored public order by force upon his accession as the grand vizier. He was obliged to take measures against the Kadızadeliler, whose presence could lead to social turmoil. Although he warded off some of the instigators, this movement remained influential.115

Intellectual circles of the period increasingly believed that the pessimistic atmosphere proved that Istanbul was a city of malice, and that decadence in the city played a role in the occurrence of all kinds of disasters. Ottoman authors of reform considered revivifying previous periods as the only way to avoid additional misfortunes, and did not approve of the social life by any means. It was a highly expected situation that the Kadızadeli movement was extremely influential in relation to this. Kâtib Çelebi, one of the period’s dissenting intellectuals, had grasped what Istanbul meant for the empire quite well. He tried to learn its ancient history not from his predecessors, who repeated the history of the Hagia Sophia frequently, but directly from works written by Byzantine historians—such as Zonaras, Niketas Choniates, Gregoras, and Chalkokondyles—which he had translated from Latin and compiled.116 This desire for enlightenment was quite impressive in that it helped him to know his city and showed the existence of other important resources to other intellectuals of the period. Kâtib Çelebi was too intelligent not to associate the misfortune and events of his era to the city where he lived. However, he passed away in 1657, before seeing that some authors of the period ascribed the fire of 1660 to the ominousness of the city. These authors considered that the sinners of the crowded, cosmopolitan city with its rapidly increasing population and expanding built-up areas deserved the divine punishment of these disasters. Mehmed Halife, the author of Târîh-i Gılmânî, noted that the city had undergone substantial development from its conquest until 1660, that it gained a capital-like feature through major reconstruction efforts. He also observed that it had become a unique city in the eyes of world travelers, and that residents of the city, flaunted by prosperity, deviated from God’s path and thus were subject to such great disasters:

Still the capital of the Ottomans, the pride of the Islamic world, Islambol is a city abounded with ulema and intellectuals. It has become so evident that those world travelers can never see any other city like this. There are more than one hundred and twenty one palaces belonging to the sultans, sultanas and grand viziers here. Each is an example of buildings of Şeddâd [the Adite ruler said to have built the garden of Iram reminiscent of heaven]. No other human being could build such buildings after the people of Şeddâd. The lowest of these buildings is the palace of İbrahim Pasha at At Meydanı, whilst the best is by the mosque of Süleymaniye, and was built by Siyavuş Pasha, one of Süleyman’s viziers.... there are so many stores, caravanserais, hans, bathhouses, tekkes (Sufi orders), madrassas, imarets (public soup kitchens), masjids, and mosques that it is hard to describe them all in proportion to the size of the city and number of its people. The city of Istanbul is that prosperous. Therefore, its residents, flaunted by their state, deviated from the path of God, started cheating, incriminating, and troubling one another, stealing, lying, slandering, disregarding religious scholars and other intellectuals. The scholars did not implement their practices as required, salesmen and shopkeepers manipulated merchandise, did not dole out, tended to bribe. Adultery and homosexuality became widespread among the public, soldiers tended to rise up and commit malice at all times. These groups of people shall spare an ear for Muhammad’s hadith: “In the event that adultery, gambling or malice occur in a town and the good is wiped out, Allah the Magnificent shall clean all these with four things: fire, famine, epidemic and war. Allah performs and rules as he wishes.” Thus, as predicted by this hadith, a myriad of plague epidemics broke out long before this one, 700–800 people died in a month or two, fires devastated the city, half of Istanbul was burnt down.117

The author ended his statement as follows: “Istanbul was devastated for this reason. Hopefully, Allah the almighty shall render it prosperous again.” Istanbul recovered, but fires and earthquakes continued in a way that occasionally changed the appearance of the city in the following centuries. Arguments regarding the religious indifference of city residents would be put forward again on the occasion of disasters that broke out a century later. The description of seventeenth century Istanbul by another famous personality is probably the most comprehensive. Evliya Çelebi described and defined Istanbul as an imperial city in every way. In a sense, Evliya Çelebi was paying back his debt of gratitude to Istanbul, his hometown, through his writings. For him, the city was İslâmıbolcağızımız (our city abounded with Islam). His unique narration of Istanbul demonstrates a different feature within the frame of his interest. In his introduction to Seyahatnâme, he wrote that he started travelling around Istanbul and its surrounding towns and villages, vineyards, gardens, and recreation areas at the age of 20 or 21, and added that he expanded this little journey of his, which increased his interest in travelling. He noted that he started with Istanbul, his maskat-ı re’si (birthplace), after being inspired to travel by a dream. From this perspective, Istanbul seems to have served as a good example for his subsequent journeys. The order he followed in his description of Istanbul is worthy of mention. Physical features of the city were the first thing that aroused the interest of all travelers. Evliya Çelebi interspersed these physical features throughout his text, surprising the reader through his excellent and original narration of events, historical information, stories, jokes, and poems.

Istanbul is known as a city honored by the good tidings of the Prophet in Islamic literature, and Evliya Çelebi, who referred frequently to the hadiths, repeated five or six times the Prophet’s well-known hadith on the conquest, which praises the conquering commander and his soldiers. He continued by describing the founding of the city. He also touched on the names of Istanbul in various world languages. Then he wrote about the Historic Peninsula and described wandering around the whole city, following continental and sea walls step by step, and measuring them. He reported that the periphery of the walls was 30,000 steps in length. The number of towers on the walls was approximately 1,225. There were 20 gates in the city, six of which were located on continental walls. Evliya Çelebi was interested in protective spells over such a splendid city. He also preferred to provide information about Istanbul’s ancient history by referring to the conditions of his time, and thus to convey historical integrity in a conscious way.

Çelebi enabled readers to feel what this holy city meant for the Muslims when he wrote about the conquests achieved during the Umayyad and Abbasid periods. Undoubtedly, he aimed to describe the historical foundations of the Ottomans’ interest in the city. He embellished his narration with various stories and farfetched events. His writing on Mehmed II’s conquest of Istanbul was found reliable by some authors and unreliable by others. Some of his information cannot be confirmed by other sources; however, it is significant in terms of understanding oral accounts of the events that were circulating during his time. Statements regarding the role of Akşemseddin, advice attributed to him, nice stories presented by the daughter of the French king to Mehmed II during the conquest, ships built offshore and anchored in the Haliç, dervishes participating in the siege by walking on water up to the city walls, and conquerors who named gates after themselves, present an alternative conquest story through Çelebi’s great narrative power.

After describing the start of Ottoman rule, Evliya Çelebi discussed the reconstruction of the city. He began that section with the Hagia Sophia, which was the symbol of the city and its main shrine and was later converted into a mosque. He referred to another story that illustrated the greatness of the city: the adventure of Gülâbî Ağa. Saying that he had bored readers with technical details, he encouraged them to refocus through this appealing story. Subsequently, he touched on the works of sultans enthroned in Istanbul and then introduced the mosques and mentioned the period of the sultan who had the complex and building in question. This becomes even more apparent following the account of the Süleymaniye mosque, which was built on the order of Süleyman the Magnificent. He described Süleyman’s period in detail, his decrees, the provincial organization during his time, the provinces, and sanjaks. He also discussed the reign of Murad IV in detail. He returned to his personal story and touched on his relations with him and, what kind of events he witnessed while in his service. He described his conquests in detail, followed by notes on political events during the reign of Mehmed IV. Short biographies of prominent statesmen and ulema of the period are included in the work as well. Biographical material in this part appears quite valuable, including information about prominent figures. Not only the famous but also many other people, even lunatics, caught Evliya Çelebi’s interest. His anecdotes on Divane Çelebi (leaving to one side the question of their authenticity) have been repeated frequently in Turkish literature. Evliya Çelebi paid special attention to marginal groups in the city throughout the volume, including in his long section on Istanbul artisans.

43- Evliya Çelebi’s Seyahatname (Süleymaniye Manuscripts Library)

Evliya Çelebi continued with the description of historical artifacts, mosques, masjids, madrassas, tekkes, soup kitchens, hospitals, residences of the ulema, palaces, hans, and public drinking fountains built by viziers and other figures. In addition, he described the bachelor chambers and paid special attention to türbe mausoleums. He also provided historical information on sultan and crown prince türbes. He wrote about the murder of Crown Prince Mustafa in a different style and shaped by various narratives. In short, he adopted a different style without neglecting people and the human element in his historical works. After describing ancient Istanbul, he turned to the outskirts, which appear integrated with the city. He gave his descriptions within a certain plan, and dealt with the districts of Eyüp and Kasımpaşa by elaborating on some historical structures and physical features. The spiritual atmosphere in Eyüp is re-concretized through his writing. He also described how meat from religious sacrifices was distributed to the residents, noting that “the people of Eyüp are called the sacrificers.” In a subsequent account, he provided information on Sütlüce, Pîrîpaşa, Kasımpaşa, Tersane, and Galata. There is quite detailed information in this section. His account of Tophane also holds significance. An anecdote relating to a great Ottoman sailor told in the context of Kılıç Ali Pasha Mosque constitutes one of the best examples of Evliya Çelebi’s narrative power. Describing Kılıç Ali Pasha as extremely religious, he elaborated on Pasha’s inadequate Turkish by narrating a thought-provoking and interesting joke. Thereafter, he mentioned the residents of Tophane, most of whom were merchants, grocers, sailors, and artillerymen. According to him, these people came from Sinop, Amasra, Ereğli in the Black Sea region, Bartın, Bafra, and Samsun. There were a great many Abhaza and Caucasians among the residents. Later Evliya Çelebi told a story about the filling in of the Dolmabahçe. Subsequently, he dealt with Beşiktaş, the districts on the Bosphorus, and the Anatolian side of the Bosphorus. He gave detailed information about the area extending from Beykoz to Üsküdar and Kadıköy while mentioning vineyards, gardens, and recreation areas.

44- The depiction of Istanbul on the clock given to Sultan Mahmud II as a gift from Russia (Topkapı Palace Museum Library, no. 53/106)

Next, he described various groups living in Istanbul. Occupying a large space in the Seyahatnâme, this section provided detailed accounts of all kinds of artisans and connoisseurs. This “craftsmen gate” constitutes the most valuable part of his work and is enlivened by a number of anecdotes. He described entertainers and enumerated the instruments they used in detail. Prominent musicians, performers, masters of impression, pehlivans (wrestlers), mehters (janissary bands), and performance masters were briefly described. His interest was not limited to these figures. For instance, he mentioned western musical instruments as well as the Ottoman ones. This extremely detailed section mentions a surprising variety of instruments. Evliya Çelebi produced an unprecedented text by vividly narrating Istanbul not only through its physical features but also through its residents and stories. Consisting of occasional spaces, probably owing to a lack of time to clean-copy his writings, the volume on Istanbul constitutes one of the indispensable sources for historians and researchers from other fields. There is a lot to learn from this colorful description of seventeenth century Istanbul. First and foremost, the rich cultural diversity of the city and its cosmopolitan structure were concretized through Evliya Çelebi’s writing. Embellishing the text, dubious stories and rumors contributed to a unique text on Istanbul. In a sense, Evliya Çelebi’s writings on Istanbul reflect the imperial power of the city.118

The second half of seventeenth century constituted another era in which Evliya Çelebi’s idealized Istanbul experienced serious depression. A period of extensive wars on the front, starting in the west, laid the ground for a new turmoil in the economic and social life of Istanbul. Mehmed IV departed from the capital due to these wars and resided in Edirne for a long time, which shook the central role of Istanbul. Edirne became an important city in this period. Defeats following the debacle of the second Vienna siege and surrender of Hungary caused utmost pessimism in the people of Istanbul. The sultan faced direct public reaction after that. News from the defeated army, the immediate retreat of the commanders, and their desire to return to Istanbul further embittered public opinion. Mehmed IV was dethroned in 1687 due to this public reaction and was replaced by his elder brother, Prince Süleyman.119 However, this did not end the turmoil in the capital. An uprising broke out in response to bonus issues and, gradually escalating, exposed Istanbul to destruction and looting again.

An earthquake also occurred in the meantime and caused serious destruction in the city. Fires, most started by arsonists, burned down many residences.120 Approximately 1,000 buildings were destroyed in the fire of 1693 as well as that of 1695.121 An imperial edict issued following the destruction required residences and shops were to be constructed of stone or brick.122 Mustafa II, enthroned following the short rule of Ahmed II (d. 1695), resided in Edirne for longer periods and did not succeed in the military campaigns following his enthronement. These problems rekindled the negative atmosphere in Istanbul. Under the pretext of forming a counter-government in Istanbul and the nonperformance of Friday prayers in a place where injustice dominated—the first occasion in 1622 during Osman II’s rule, the second in the interim period after Sultan Ibrahim was dethroned in 1648,123 the third during the uprising of 1730124—Friday prayers were not performed and sermons were not preached (23 July 1703).125 Dethronement of the sultan during the incident of Edirne in 1703 influenced Istanbul deeply, and many incidents broke out thereafter. Following his enthronement, Ahmed III was able to rule over the city after eliminating the insurgent leaders. This period was the start of a new era. Following the fire of 1718, which continued for 72 hours and destroyed most of Istanbul, a new reconstruction effort commenced.126

Westernizing the Capital

Coming to the city by sea in March 1701, the famous traveler Tournefort described Istanbul with these words:

Istanbul, including its outskirts, is inarguably the biggest city in Europe. According to the common view held by all travelers and even ancient historians, the city is placed in the most beautiful and advantageous location in the world. The straits of Çanakkale and Istanbul were opened as if to transfer riches coming from all over the world to the city. These two straits are called the gates of Istanbul.

These statements can be treated as an important indicator of the capital’s magnificence despite the political, social, and economic upheavals breaking out at the beginning of the seventeenth century. While Tournefort attempted to convey the city’s impressive appearance to his readers with a comparison to examples from France, he reiterated that the largest city of Europe, embodying rising houses, porches, balconies, gardens, amphitheaters, bedestens, caravanserais, mosques, palaces, and churches, cannot be found anywhere in the world. However, his impression changed after he landed. He reported that the houses were generally short and made from wood and mud-brick and that traces of destructive fires were easily visible in the city. The other problems he identified in the city were the plague epidemics and navy sailors called levend. The pavements were in relatively bad condition, and some parts of the city lacked pavements altogether. The main street leading from the palace to Edirnekapı was a convenient route and was much more crowded than in common parlance. The houses had a maximum of two stories and were fully inhabited. The reasons behind the dense population included trade opportunities, increased earnings, expectations of becoming a government official, and slaves brought to the city. Slaves reproduced through marriage and held an important place in the city. The first buildings seen by foreign travelers were enormous mosques built by the sultans.127

Seeing the city shortly before Tournefort in the last quarter of the seventeenth century, another French traveler was unable to stop himself from writing that it was an impressive and utterly different city while approaching it by sea. He thought that he had come to a fascinating city upon seeing it for the first time. Adorned with innumerable houses, it rose like an amphitheater. Incredibly enormous, ascendant, and preeminent domes, minarets and bell towers stood in the middle of colorful houses. Constantine the Great, founder of the city, admired the city’s special position since no other city, under his rule, had such different features as Istanbul. It overlooked both Europe and Asia in one view. His orders reached the Asian side from the European side within fifteen minutes. Istanbul was the only place where art, nature, beauty, and productivity were equal.128

Most of these impressions held true for Istanbul, which was at the threshold of a new century. The city had a substantial increase in demographic and commercial activity as well as physical development. Following the end of backbreaking wars in 1699, the city entered a recovery period that had a positive impact. In fact, the seventeenth century was a period of political decline for the empire, as it started losing territories to Europe, which was experiencing the Enlightenment and taking a stark step into the colonization period. The effects of these lost territories resurged in the last quarter of the century. It was unimaginable that Istanbul would not be influenced by this atmosphere affecting the whole empire; however, this cosmopolitan city maintained its demographic and economic growth. It experienced a physical transformation as well. This was partially caused by the rivalry between Edirne and Istanbul. Following the uprising of 1703, it was decided that the sultan should permanently reside in Istanbul, which led to a complete restoration of the city’s facade. The peaceful environment following the Treaty of Passorowitz in 1718 constituted a turning point for Istanbul, which began another reconstruction effort in line with the seventeenth century’s sense of art. Restoration and construction were ongoing, and new palaces and mansions started to be built on the Haliç coasts by imperial order. In a sense, these reconstruction efforts changed Istanbul’s atmosphere. The peaceful environment engendered other initiatives, such as the establishment of the first printing press in the empire and new military schools; designing gardens and growing flowers were adopted as an aesthetic pleasure. Some scientific institutions were built as well; these were influenced by western ideas. Festivities and grand weddings started to stand out.129

Nearly all the walls of Istanbul facing the sea were restored and repaired between 1722 and 1724.130 Raşid Efendi, one of the period’s chroniclers, attributed this effort to the destruction caused by fires in the city and ruined masjids and mosques. Thereafter, decrees were directed at prominent statesmen for the repair or reconstruction of such buildings.131 This meant that prominent and wealthy statesmen would be obliged to repair mosques and masjids during a period when palaces and gardens were reconstructed and entertainment spaces were opened. It was also an indicator for balancing the reactions against entertainment venues. Furthermore, a new perception of civilian life emerged in the Ottoman mindset. Efforts to balance religious buildings and entertainment venues reflected the perception of an integrated place per se. To this end, the mosque of Ortaköy was constructed between 1721 and 1722 considering the landscape design of the mansion and garden of Mehmed Pasha, Ibrahim Pasha’s chamberlain, and its surroundings. When Ibrahim Pasha completed the mosque of Sadabad between 1722 and 1723, new summer palaces and entertainment venues were constructed within this district. The mosque built in Bebek was structured in consideration of the Hümayunabad summer palace and its surroundings. In order to reconstruct the surroundings of the mansion built on the order of Ibrahim Pasha’s son, the Vizier Mehmed Pasha, the drinking fountain in Hocapaşa, teacher’s training school, fountain, and bathhouse were repaired, and the masjid of Süleyman Subaşı was overhauled. The surroundings of the palace of Fatma Sultan were enlivened through similar reconstruction efforts. A new lethargic period constituted by French-style gardens and palaces almost presided over the entire city.

According to Emo, the bailo of Venice, the reconstruction was not limited to the formation of Sadabad within the districts of Haliç and Kağıthane. Reconstruction efforts also took place in Beşiktaş and Ortaköy. Embellished with mosques, fountains, mansions, and gardens, the capital was filled with an army of laborers working on reconstruction projects.132 French envoy Marki de Bonnac described the situation in 1724 as follows:

Ibrahim Pasha assumed all costs in order to satisfy the people as required by the glory and honor of a ruler. All of the old buildings were repaired upon his order. So it might be said that he restored Istanbul through new buildings constructed by him, his relatives and friends. Following the return of Mehmed Efendi (Yirmisekiz (twenty-eight) Çelebi), who was sent as an envoy to the majesties, Ibrahim Pasha tried to imitate the glory and beauty of our gardens and buildings. In fact, these examples of our structures are less than mediocre and they are not well located either. However, the Pasha provided the people with unusual and extraordinary views and therefore prevented, more or less, the complaints and uprising of the restless people.133

Istanbul was turning into a glorious city compared to its western counterparts. It underwent a serious transformation. Moreover, the reconstruction efforts were materialized with a western view that appealed to the ephemeral present world rather than preparing for the next world. The trend of the age became apparent in the city embodied in western-style structures. This transformation reached quite impressive levels. However, some groups, supported by social dissatisfaction and a shrinking market, began to perceive the reconstruction practices as challenging tradition under the influence of political ideas. Describing these events later, Ottoman historian Şemdanîzade Süleyman Efendi pointed out that entertainment venues were built in locations such as At Meydanı, the courtyards of Sultan Mehmet and Beyazıt mosques, Yenibahçe, Yedikule, Bayrampaşa, Eyüp, Kasımpaşa, Tophane, Sadabad, Dolmabahçe, Bebek, Göksu, Çubuklu, Beykoz, and Üsküdar. Moreover, he noted that men and women enjoyed riding on swings and singing songs; that everyone was visiting these venues, and that there was an outbreak of gossip owing to this. In addition to some other reasons, he wrote that all reactions were directed at the Grand Vizier Ibrahim Pasha of Nevşehir as he was the key person. He also expressed openly the reactions against the construction of Sadabad Palace.134

A qadi (Muslim judge), also an eyewitness during the period, appeared to be pleased with the practices in Kağıthane; however, the public entertainment of both men and women in the same place disturbed him. In his diary, he noted that “cradles, swings, ferris wheels, [and] merry-go-rounds” were allowed and that these were set up in mosque courtyards, other squares, and Sadabad. He wrote: “[the] vileness that took place at this time, let it remain in the past, and may Allah render our end good.”135 This situation, which was severely criticized by Şemdanizâde, who commented on the events later, was another reflection of the changing views of the period. A small model of the empire, the capital was faced with an uprising during its transformative period. Displeased with the developments, a circle of people, under the pretext of the Iranian front, triggered a large uprising with the support of those desiring to use this for political gain.

The Patrona Halil Uprising of 1730 did not bring utter devastation to the city, which was ornamented with new mansions and gardens along the coast of the Haliç. Istanbulians locked themselves in their residences during the turmoil, while some fled the city.136 Traces of damages to the city in 1730 were removed quickly. According to a contemporary source, it was demanded that more than 120 summer palaces be destroyed and set ablaze; however, only the “ruination and demolition” of these were allowed on the grounds that these actions would be condemned by the envoys in Istanbul and the world outside the Ottoman Empire. Burning was not allowed under any circumstances.137 A demolition order was sent to the owners of the mansions in Sadabad, and this order was enforced within three days.138 Although Istanbul, praised by Nedim (a seventeenth century poet) in the words “Let the whole Persian land be sacrificed for one stone in the city,” continued to function as an excursion and a sightseeing location in subsequent periods, a partial but significant demolition took place in Sadabad. New elements were added to the physical features of the city in this period, and western elements had become an inseparable feature of various parts of the city. The district of the Haliç, in particular, would become the new center of economic momentum in a future industrial zone. The order of neighborhoods started to change because of the frequent fires. It was ordered that new residences be constructed of roof tiles, bricks, and mud-bricks. The city experienced a lack of these three building materials due to the high amount of repairs and new construction around 1703.139 This situation sheds light on the importance of the need for residences in a crowded city like Istanbul.

A serious atmosphere of rebellion was suppressed through effective action ordered by Mahmud I, and safety and security were restored. Apart from natural disasters and fires, this period remained peaceful. Important reconstruction efforts took place in Istanbul during the rule of Mahmud I, referred to as muammir-i bilâd (rebuilder of the cities) due to his reconstruction efforts in Istanbul, Osman III, and Mustafa III. The peaceful atmosphere, maintained until 1768, had an impact on Istanbul as well. However, the peace was disrupted by a disaster. The earthquake of 1766 caused the destruction of many buildings and the death of 4,000 people.140 The cost of this disaster was extremely high. The dome of Fatih Mosque, previously affected by earthquakes, was completely demolished. A minaret of Sultan Ahmet Mosque was wrecked, whereas the Nuruosmaniye, incomplete and reminiscent of old imperial buildings, the Hagia Sophia, and other sultan mosques were not damaged at all. A great many mosques, masjids, hans, bathhouses, and bedestens were significantly affected by the earthquake. Churches were exposed to serious damage as well. Topkapı Palace was among the affected buildings. The sultan even had to stay in a tent in the courtyard for several days. Several aftershocks shook the city. As always, historians of the period interpreted this as a warning from God. Construction officials (bina emini) were assigned for the repair of the market of Istanbul, city walls, gunpowder factory, Saraçhane and Arasta buildings, palace, janissary barracks, Yedikule, Tophane, and Fatih Mosque.141

45- Panoramic view of Istanbul: From islands to Anatolian and Rumelian Castles (<em>Panorama of Constantinople</em>, London, 1851)

As of the beginning of the eighteenth century, western influence could be openly seen in the city’s physical appearance. The wide road system and the market connected to the small complex constructed near Şehzade Mosque on the order of Damad Ibrahim Pasha of Nevşehir within the framework of reconstruction efforts provided an alternative to the ancient main road called Divanyolu. This new, arcaded road was referred to as Direklerarası (Between the Pillars). Construction of buildings in the new architectural style accelerated during the reign of Mahmud I. Classical architecture was replaced by Ottoman-style baroque architecture in this period. The complex of Nuruosmaniye became the first monumental sign of this architecture (1749–1755). Western elements in the imperial development of the city were manifested in this period. The Ottoman-baroque style continued during the reign of Mustafa III and Abdulhamid I and reached its prime during Selim III’s rule. The mosques of Laleli (1760–1764), Ayazma (1758–1761), Beylerbeyi/Hamidiye (1777–1778), and Selimiye (1802–1805) reflected this new architectural understanding. Fountains and mausoleums followed this style as well. The western geometrical style was implemented in large military buildings during the rule of Selim III. Istanbul began to be considered a European city, and its planning was designed accordingly during the reign of Mahmud II and the Tanzimat Era.

A new period began when the negative impacts of war, starting in 1768, quickly encircled Istanbul. The presence of the Russian navy in the Aegean Sea and a new politics of blockade made the Ottoman capital (with a burned-down navy) a defenseless target for the first time.142 In the reign of Abdulhamid I, enthroned during the outbreak of large front wars, Istanbul again experienced large fires.143 The fire of 1782, in particular, had such an impact that it was mentioned in an epistle. The writer attributed his reasons for authoring the epistle to the fact that the city, filled with wooden residences, was inside a fire triangle, and said that people should benefit from the lesson described in his writing. Among the obvious reasons for the fire he listed an ongoing lack of rain and exposure of the wooden houses to excessive sunshine that dried out the wood and the fact that firefighters were poorly paid and that an easterly wind spread the fire. However, he wrote, hidden reasons for the fire were more important, including Istanbulians’ disregard for the suffering and grief of people in Anatolia and Rumeli, for which the fire was revenge. Moreover, he wrote, men and women dressed too extravagantly; large and splendid buildings were constructed, which was against religion; and astrologers drew interpretations from the reddening moon and pale sun, and this led to divine wrath.144

Without a doubt, these statements exemplify ordinary interpretations of disasters. Istanbul was a source of prosperity and a wealthy city; however, it had to pay for the people suffering from the war in the countryside. This understanding brought about an important breaking point. Istanbul had become disconnected from its hinterland, and monopolized investments; this had elicited divine punishment. In a period in which military failure shattered all hopes, losing Crimea in 1783 caused utmost disappointment not only in official circles but also among ordinary Istanbulians. Large-scale rebellions came to a halt, and fights among soldiers constituted the main issue of insecurity. Fights, often caused by sailors, frequently disturbed the public peace.145 However, Selim III’s attempt to carry out military reforms in order to put an end to the bad course of ongoing wars would rekindle a period of great rebellion.

Selim III ordered the construction of new western-style military buildings that would considerably increase the number of monumental venues in the city. These included Tophane, Bombardier and Sapper Guilds in Hasköy (Humbaracı ve Lağımcı ocakları), Mühendishane Publishing House (the sole publishing house in Mühendishane and Istanbul), and large barracks in Taksim, Levent, and Üsküdar. While trying to form a new army, he faced serious resistance. The precautions could not prevent the bad course of the war. Although the British navy, reaching Istanbul on 20 February 1807, caused great tension in the city (reminiscent of the fear and surprise of the Byzantians on seeing the Turkish navy entering the Haliç on 21 May 1453), the navy retreated following the implementation of necessary measures. The city had become a direct target of a foreign navy under Ottoman rule for the first time.146 Coming from the Black Sea in şayka (a type of rowboat) in the first half of the seventeenth century, Kazak gangs had been able to infiltrate the Bosphorus and carry out looting.147 The chain stretched across the Haliç to prevent entry during the Byzantine era was reinstalled at the entry to the Bosphorus for security reasons.148

Facing such a situation meant that Istanbul was no longer safe and secure. There were serious rumors that the Russians had sudden plans to capture the city, and the barracks of Levent were constructed at a point close to the Bosphorus to prevent such raids and a possible overland attack on the reservoirs of Istanbul.149 The Istanbulians’ dread in this respect would be engrained in their minds and remembered, as opposed to the cold-bloodedness of the official authorities. The surprise and mistrust of the palace were significant in laying the ground for the rebellion sparked by the janissaries who had not been satisfied with military reforms beginning in 1807. As a result of the Kabakçı Mustafa Rebellion, Selim III was dethroned and replaced with his nephew, Mustafa IV. The janissaries imposed their power on the new sultan in the strictest sense.150

Alemdar Mustafa Pasha arrived in Istanbul with the army of Rumeli in order to return the dethroned sultan to the throne; this caused disorder in the city.151 Although Alemdar raided the palace, he saw that Selim III had been killed on the order of the new sultan. Mustafa IV was dethroned in turn and replaced with Mahmud II, who was immediately rescued from the hangman (28 Temmuz 1808). However, the janissaries revolted again and caused the death of Alemdar Pasha. They desired to re-enthrone Mustafa IV, but their attempt failed due to the execution of the old ruler. During these events, the janissary barracks were set ablaze, and fire burned down the districts near the Hagia Sophia, Sultan Ahmet as well as the barracks of Levent and Selimiye.152 The clashes between the janissaries and the Sekban153 continued for some time; eventually the janissaries became victorious and imposed their power on the new sultan.154 Janissary dominance endured for a long time in Istanbul.

46- A map of Istanbul dated 1813 (Topkapı Palace Museum Library, no. H. 1858)

47- A view of Istanbul from the domes of Süleymaniye

In 1812, Istanbul was shaken with new epidemics. A plague epidemic cost 1,000–2,000 lives per day.155 Various parts of the city suffered from arson until August 1817, and the resulting fires disrupted the public peace. Upon the Peloponnese Rebellion of 1821 and the massacre of the Muslim population on the island, a great many incidents targeting non-Muslim circles took place in Istanbul as well as other regions. Some Istanbul metropolitans, the Greek Patriarch, Diwan, and navy interpreters were executed on grounds of high treason. Attacks on Greek residents of Istanbul could only be controlled with difficulty.156 On the news that Greek guards were terrorizing the city and planning to assassinate state dignitaries, it was announced that prominent figures should avoid the mosques and perform their Friday prayers at home. The loss of the Peloponnes (Mora Island) had a considerably negative impact on Istanbulians, following as it did the loss of the Crimea, and they were deeply shocked by the news of the massacre of Muslims on the island.

The abolition of the Janissary Guild by Mahmud II in 1826 sparked a significant incident. The city turned into a battle zone, and janissaries were pursued and massacred. Historians of the period attributed all disasters and failures in war to this guild; Istanbulians probably had the same opinion. Mahmud II’s superficial reforms brought about the articulation of a Western style assimilated into the mystical atmosphere of Istanbul. Without a doubt, this constituted a framework compatible with the reforms of Ahmed III. However, a bold and radical social transformation emerged during this time: officers and soldiers dressed in new uniforms appeared on the streets of Istanbul. There was a change in the classical Muslim civilian profile at this time. Istanbul faced the same offshore threat from the land this time. The Russians seized Edirne in 1828 and reached Kırklareli. This made Istanbul an open target by land and caused great public panic. Security measures were taken for the city; however, this threat was removed as a result of an agreement. Upon the ongoing blockade in the Mediterranean and Black Sea in 1829, the capital was suffering from a lack of food, and therefore a population count was conducted for the distribution of bread. The rebellion of Kavalalı Mehmed Pasha in Egypt and the advance of his armies through Anatolia up to the gates of Istanbul caused great concern. In the first instance of foreign troops arriving in the city to assist the Ottoman Empire, a Russian ship anchored off the coast of Büyükdere. The soldiers landed near Hünkar İskelesi and established headquarters there. Upon the resolution of the issue, the Russians departed from Istanbul in 1833.

Mahmud II ruled during a period in which great reconstruction efforts took place, new military structures were built, and western inventions such as the telegraph, post, and new means of transport emerged. The first official Turkish newspaper was published in 1831. In short, a platitude of new civic practices took place in the city during the reign of Mahmud II.157 The imperial appearance of the city underwent a complete change in conjunction with the construction of administrative and military buildings, schools, and buildings housing foreign missions. The city was faced with the first western reconstruction elements at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The products of an industrializing Europe dominated the markets of the imperial capital. The capital stepped into the metropolitization process thereof. The city had always been a part of the world economy; however, it became the center of a new movement that would be directly connected to it in this era. This situation enabled the shaping the city through western-influenced planning and reconstruction legislation that incorporated principles of modern urban planning.

The westernization process, from the beginning, catalyzed a development that would change the physical features of the city. Decoration of the city with Western-style structures would have a substantial impact on its physical features. Shopping centers and commercial buildings concentrated in the Historic Peninsula maintained its status as the old traditional center, while a new industrial zone appeared north of the Haliç. This dual structure was an indicator of the modern transformation of the city, which started to manifest itself through urban transport. Road enlargement, motor cars, regulation of sea transport, illumination of the city according to modern needs, and establishment of the municipality were signs of a brand new capital. This, in turn, affected the social texture of the city. Istanbul was entering a new era. It was natural that the new understandings emerging in this era most strongly influenced the districts of Galata and Beyoğlu rather than the Historic Peninsula. At the same time, enormous western-style buildings owned by public and foreign missions began to intrude on the historical texture of ancient Istanbul within the city walls and had a determinant influence on the character of the city. This process would become clear when the main administrative location, represented by Topkapı Palace, moved to the coast of the Bosphorus following the construction of Dolmabahçe Palace. In conclusion, the Tanzimat Reform Era not only changed the far-flung empire of the classical period but also transformed its eternal capital, inherited from the Roman Empire.


1 Feridun M. Emecen, “Batı’nın Doğusu-Doğu’nun Batısı: Istanbul”, Tarihte Doğu Batı Çatışması, edited by Ertan Eğribel and Ufuk Özcan, Istanbul: Kızılelma Yayıncılık, 2005, pp. 272-277.

2 From a historian’s perspective, Bernard Lewis assessed intercultural conflict within the frame of three monotheistic religions: Çatışan Kültürler, Keşifler Çağında Hıristiyanlar, Müslümanlar, Yahudiler, translated by Nurettin Elhüseyni, Istanbul: Tarih Vakfı Yurt Yayınları, 1996.

3 Please see Doğu-Batı, 1998, vol. 1, p. 2 for observations and discussions of “What is East, What is West?” For more information, please see Tarihte Doğu Batı Çatışması, edited by Ertan Eğribel and Ufuk Özcan, Istanbul: Kızılelma Yayıncılık, 2005.

4 Herodot Tarihi, translated by Müntekim Ökmen, Istanbul: Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, 2002, p. 213.

5 The intense struggle between China and the steppe tribes, which China defined as barbaric, led to the construction of the Wall of China: Wolfram Eberhard, Çin’in Şimal Komşuları, translated by Nimet Uluğtuğ, Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu, 1942; Wolfram Eberhard, Çin Tarihi, Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu, 1947.

6 Lewis, Çatışan Kültürler, p. 5.

7 The goal was to find the Priest-King John, who represented ancient Christendom in the east. For instance, while envoys of the Pope were looking for Christianity in Central Asia (please see Wilhelm von Rubruk, Moğolların Büyük Hanına Seyahat, 1253-1255, translated by Engin Ayan, Istanbul: Ayışığı Kitapları, 2001, pp. 56-59; Lajos Ligeti, Bilinmeyen İç Asya, translated by Sadrettin Karatay, Ankara: Türk Dil Kurumu, 1986, p. 303), the Portuguese were motivated by the same goal in their Indian campaign at the end of the 15th century: “We came to find spices and Christianity” (Salih Özbaran, “16. Yüzyılda Hint Okyanusu. Portekiz Egemenliğinin Kurulması”, Yemen’den Basra’ya: Sınırdaki Osmanlı, Istanbul: Kitap Yayınevi, 2004, pp. 108-109).

8 Steven Runciman, Haçlı Seferleri Tarihi, translated by Fikret Işıltan, Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu, 1986, vol. 1, pp. 3-83. In addition, the Latins reached their goal by occupying Istanbul in 1204, albeit for a short time. For narratives of two witnesses of the period from an occupied and occupier perspective, see O City of Byzantium, Annals of Niketas Choniates, translated by Harry J. Magoulias, Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1984; Geoffroi de Villehardouin and Henri de Valenciennes, Konstantinopolis’te Haçlılar, translated by Ali Berktay, Istanbul: İletişim Yayınları, 2003.

9 Feridun M. Emecen, İlk Osmanlılar ve Batı Anadolu Beylikler Dünyası, Istanbul: Timaş yayınları, 2012.

10 Fear of Turkish expansion manifested itself in Italian literature: Ümit Gürol, İtalyan Edebiyatında Türkler, Ankara: İmge Kitabevi, 1987, pp. 18-42. For reflections in the German world, please see: Margret Spohn, Her Şey Türk İşi: Almanların Türkler Hakkında 500 Yıllık (Ön) Yargıları, translated by Leyla Serdaroğlu, Istanbul: Yapı ve Kredi Bankası, 1996, pp. 25-44.

11 Translator’s note: Şinasi was a pioneering Ottoman author, journalist, and poet. This analogy was taken from his most acclaimed work, Şair Evlenmesi (Wedding of a Poet).

12 Joseph von Hammer, İstanbul ve Boğaziçi, translated by Senail Özkan, Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu, 2011 2011, vol. 1, p. 5.

13 F. G. Moore, “On Urbs Aeterna and Urbs Sacra”, Transactions of the American Philological Association, 1894, issue 25, pp. 34-60.

14 Mehmet Celal Özdoğan, “Tarih Öncesi Çağlarda İstanbul”, Kültürler Başkenti İstanbul, edited by Fahameddin Başar, Istanbul: Türk Kültürüne Hizmet Vakfı, 2010, pp. 6-7.

15 J. Miller, “Byzantium”, Real-Encyclopaedia, Stuttgart: J. B. Metzler, 1899, III, 1116-1150; Oğuz Tekin, “Eskiçağ’da İstanbul”, Kültürler Başkenti İstanbul, pp. 12-38.

16 Tekin, “Eskiçağ’da İstanbul”, pp. 13-15.

17 Tekin, “Eskiçağ’da İstanbul”, pp. 30-32.

18 Aurel Decei, “İstanbul”, İA, V/2, p. 1145; Tekin, “Eskiçağ’da İstanbul”, p. 36.

19 Petrus Gyllius, İstanbul’un Tarihi Eserleri, translated by Erendiz Özbayoğlu, Istanbul: Eren Yayıncılık, 1997, pp. 29-32.S

20 Cyril Mango, Bizans Mimarisi, translated by Mine Kadiroğlu, Istanbul: Rekmay Ltd., 2006, p. 40.

21 Louis Brehier, “Constantin et la fondation de Constantinople”, RH, 1915, vol. 119, p. 248; W. Müller-Wiener, Istanbul’un Tarihsel Topografyası: 17. Yüzyıl Başlarına Kadar, translated by Ülker Sayın, Istanbul: Yapı Kredi Yayınları, 2001, pp. 16-19.

22 Cyril Mango, Bizans: Yeni Roma İmparatorluğu, translated by Gül Çağalı Güven, Istanbul: Yapı Kredi Yayınları, 2007, p. 85.

23 Engin Akyürek, “Istanbul’da Bizans Dönemi Mimarlığı ve Eserleri”, Kültürler Başkenti Istanbul, pp. 70-72.

24 Müller-Wiener, Istanbul’un Tarihsel Topografyası, pp. 286-295; Marios Philippides and Walter K. Hanak, The Siege and the Fall of Constantinople in 1453: Historiography, Topography and Military Studies, Surrey: Ashgate, 2011, p. 297.

25 Mango, Bizans, pp. 85-86.

26 Semavi Eyice, “Ayasofya”, DİA, IV, 306-307.

27 Gürkan Ergin, “Antik Istanbul’da Bir Taraftar İsyanı: Nika Ayaklanması”, İmparatorluk Başkentinden Kültür Başkentine: Istanbul, edited by Feridun M. Emecen, Istanbul: Kitabevi, 2010, pp. 61-75.

28 When anonymous Ottoman histories, beginning in the 15th century, included some legendary information regarding the construction of Hagia Sophia and the founding of Istanbul, the Nika riots were described as the struggle of Justinian against the worshippers of fire.

29 Stefanos Yerasimos, Kostantiniye ve Ayasofya Efsaneleri, translated by Şirin Tekeli, Istanbul: İletişim Yayınları, 1993.

30 Casim Avcı, “Müslüman Arapların İstanbul Seferleri”, Fatih Sempozyumları, Tebliğler II, Istanbul: Fatih Belediye Başkanlığı, 2007, pp. 108-115.

31 Marius Canard, “Tarih ve Efsaneye Göre Arapların Istanbul Seferleri”, translated by İ. Hami Danişmend, Istanbul Enstitüsü Dergisi, 1956, vol. 2, pp. 213-259.

32 Mango, Bizans, pp. 92-96.

33 For discussions on the subject and on the name Istanbul as a corruption of Constantinople, see Marek Stachowski-Robert Woodhouse, “The Etymology of Istanbul: Making Optimal Use of the Evidance”, Studia Etymologica Cracoviensia, 2015, vol. 20, pp. 221-245.

34 Please see Abdulhalik Bakır, “Ortaçağ Coğrafyacılarının İzlenimleri Işığında Istanbul”, İmparatorluk Başkentinden Kültür Başkentine Istanbul, edited by Feridun M. Emecen, Istanbul: Kitabevi, 2010, pp. 150-153.

35 Casim Avcı, “Arap-İslâm Kaynaklarında Istanbul”, Istanbul Üniversitesi 550. Yıl Uluslararası Bizans ve Osmanlı Sempozyumu (XV. Yüzyıl), edited by Sümer Atasoy, Istanbul: İstanbul Üniversitesi Rektörlüğü, 2004, pp. 99-100.

36 In the work of the Ottoman geographer and voyager Aşık Mehmed (died after 1605), based on Takvimü’l-büldân, he transferred nearly all knowledge of Arabic geographers regarding Istanbul and criticized these: Menâzirü’l-avâlim, prepared by Mahmut Ak, Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu, 2007, vol. 3, pp. 1054-1096.

37 Avcı, “Arap-İslâm Kaynaklarında İstanbul”, pp. 101-103.

38 From Casim Avcı citing from Yakut and Kazvinî: “Müslüman Arap Kaynaklarında Bizans Başşehri İstanbul (Konstantinopolis)”, Akademik Araştırmalar Dergisi, 2010, vol. 12, no. 47-48, p. 76. For accounts of Aşık Mehmed on the matter see: Menâzirü’l-avâlim, vol. 3, pp. 1072-1073: “I possess the world and the world stood as this ball in my hand, and just as my open hand I came out strong from the world and shook off my hand.”

39 Avcı, “Müslüman Arap Kaynaklarında Bizans Başşehri İstanbul”, p. 104.

40 Mualla Uydu Yücel, “Kiev Knezliği Dönemi Rus Kaynaklarında İstanbul”, İmparatorluk Başkentinden Kültür Başkentine, pp. 175-203.

41 Konstantinopolis 1054-1261, edited by Alain Ducellier and Michel Balard, Istanbul: İletişim Yayınları, 2002, pp. 148-152.

42 Konstantinopolis 1054-1261, pp. 55-69.

43 Runciman, Haçlı Seferleri Tarihi, vol. 1, pp. 116-117.

44 Alexiad, translated by Bilge Umar, Istanbul: İnkılap Kitabevi, 1996, p. 322.

45 Donald M. Nicol, Bizans ve Venedik: Diplomatik ve Kültürel İlişkiler Üzerine, translated by Gül Çağalı Güven, Istanbul: Sabancı Üniversitesi, 2000, pp. 118-137.

46 O City of Byzantium, Annals of Niketas Choniates, p. 317.

47 Ortaçağda İki Yahudi Seyyahın İslâm Dünyası Gözlemleri, translated by by Nuh Arslantaş, Istanbul: Marmara Üniversitesi İlahiyat Fakültesi Vakfı, 2009, pp. 33-36 (It is stated that Benjamin performed his journey between 1165-1173 and wrote his work in 1173).

48 Lucette Valensi, Venedik ve Bâb-ı Âli: Despot’un Doğuşu, translated by A. Turgut Arnas, Istanbul: Bağlam Yayınları, 1994, p. 76.

49 Geographie d’Aboulfeda, translated by Joseph-Toussaint Reinaud, Paris: Imprimerie Royale, 1848, vol. 2, pp. 315-316; As Aşık Mehmed cites from Takvîmü’l-büldân: “Dâhil-i sûr-ı Kostantiniye’de müzdera‘ ve besâtin vardır ve medine-i Kostantiniye’de harâb-ı kesîr vardır.” (Menâzirü’l-avâlim, vol. 3, p. 1068).

50 İbn Battuta Seyahatnâmesi, translated by A. Sait Aykut, Istanbul: Yapı Kredi Yayınları, 2000, vol. 1, pp. 504-505, 508.

51 Ruy Gonzales de Clavijo, Court of Timur at Samarcand, A.D. 1403-6, translated by Clements R. Markham, London: The Hakluyt Society, 1859, pp. 46-47.

52 İstanbul’un Tarihi Eserleri, pp.175-178. Gyllius also recorded the famous and influential omen of Erythraili Sbylla in his work.

53 “Lanetli Şehir Düştü: Istanbul’un Fethi ve Kıyamet Senaryoları”, Osm. Ar., 2003, vol. 22, p. 191-205; ayrıca bk. Feridun M. Emecen, Fetih ve Kıyamet, Istanbul: Timaş Yayınları, 2012, pp. 38-62.

54 Feridun M. Emecen, “Dünya’da Fethin Yankıları: Doğu ve Batı”, 1453 Istanbul Kültür ve Sanat Dergisi, 2010, issue 8, pp. 13-19.

55 Ahmed Ateş, “Fatih Sultan Mehmed Tarafından Gönderilen Mektuplar ve Bunlara Gelen Cevaplar”, TD, 1952, vol. 4, issue 7, pp. 21-23, 33-36, 44-50.

56 Texts as such were collected by Pertusi: İstanbul’un Fethi: Dünyadaki Yankısı, tr. Mahmut H. Şakiroğlu, Istanbul: İstanbul Fetih Cemiyeti, 2006, vol. 2, pp. 9-11.

57 Faruk Bilici, XIV. Louis ve İstanbul’u Fetih Tasarısı, Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu, 2004.

58 Cities that were Sanjak centers where Şehzades, members of the dynasty, resided are striking examples of this. Manisa and Amasya were subject to a capital-based cultural influence: Feridun M. Emecen, Tarihin İçinde Manisa, Manisa 2007. Feridun M. Emecen, “Orta Karadeniz Bölgesinde Antik Kaleden Şehre Bir Gelişim Süreci Örneği: Amasya Tarihine Genel Bakış”, Omeljan Pritsak Armağanı, ed. Mehmet Alpargu and Yücel Öztürk, Sakarya 2007, p. 681-696.

59 For a complete list of travelers’ books on Istanbul, please see: Semavi Eyice, “İstanbul Tarihi Eserleri”, İA, V/2, p. 1214/137-144.

60 A selection of mühimme kayıtları (decrees of the Divan-ı Hümayun) regarding Istanbul were published by Ahmed Refik: Onuncu Asr-ı Hicride İstanbul Hayatı (1495-1591); (1592-1688); (1688-1785); (1786-1882), 1988 (four books). In addition, Ahkam Defterleri (Logbook of Judgments) belonging to Istanbul was published in a series: İstanbul Külliyatı: İstanbul Ahkâm Defterleri, prepared by Ahmet Tabakoğlu et al., v. VI, Istanbul 1997-98.

61 Within the framework of a new publishing project relating to the şer’iyye sicilleri of Istanbul, 40 books have been published by ISAM.

62 Halil İnalcık, “Istanbul”, DİA, XXXIII, 220-239.

63 Semavi Eyice, “Fatih Camii ve Külliyesi”, DİA, XII, 244-249.

64 Gülru Necipoğlu, 15. ve 16. Yüzyılda Topkapı Sarayı, trans. Ruşen Sezer, Istanbul 2007; Zeynep Tarım Ertuğ, “Topkapı Sarayı”, DİA, XLI, 256-261.

65 Halil İnalcık, The Survey of Istanbul 1455, Istanbul 2012.

66 Şehabettin Tekindağ, “Fatih’in Ölümü Meselesi”, TD, 1966, issue 21, p. 95-108; Şehabettin Tekindağ, “II Bayezid’in Tahta Çıkışı Sırasında Istanbul’da Vukua Gelen Hadiseler”, TD, 1959, issue 14, p. 85-96.

67 Oruç Beğ Tarihi, prepared by Necdet Öztürk, Istanbul 2008, p. 143.

68 N. N. Ambraseys ve C. F. Finkel, Türkiye’de ve Komşu Bölgelerde Sismik Etkinlikler: Bir Tarihsel İnceleme, 1500-1800, trans.. M. Umur Koçak, Ankara 2006, p. 30-36.

69 Feridun M. Emecen, Zamanın İskenderi, Şarkın Fatihi: Yavuz Sultan Selim, Istanbul 2010.

70 Feridun M. Emecen, Osmanlı Klasik Çağında Siyaset, Istanbul 2009, p. 145-194.

71 Busbecq, Türk Mektupları, trans. Hüseyin Cahit Yalçın, Istanbul 1939, p. 52-53.

72 Tevârih-i Âl-i Osman, haz. Şerafettin Turan, Ankara 1957, VII. Defter, p. 96-99.

73 Muhammed İbrahim Yıldırım, “İdris-i Bitlisi’nin Heşt-Bihişt’ine Göre Fatih Sultan Mehmed ve Dönemi”, doctoral thesis, Mimar Sinan Üniversitesi, 2010, p. 119-152.

74 Kitâbü Mesâlih, Osmanlı Devlet Teşkilatına Dair Kaynaklar içinde, haz. Yaşar Yücel, Ankara 1988, p. 115.

75 Özlem Kumrular, “Yeniçağ Avrupalısının Gözünden ve Kaleminden Istanbul”, Kültürler Başkenti Istanbul, p. 192-204.

76 For details about Foster’s account, please see: Tülay Reyhanlı, İngiliz Gezginlerine Göre XVI. Yüzyılda İstanbul’da Hayat, Ankara 1983, p. 41.

77 For works of the period, please see Eyice, “İstanbul’un Tarihi Eserleri”, İA, V/2, p. 1214 et seq.

78 Selânikî, Târih, ed. Mehmet İpşirli, Ankara 1999, v. 1, p. 3-4.

79 Ahmed Refik, Onuncu Asr-ı Hicride Istanbul Hayatı, Istanbul 1332, provisions on p. 83-86

80 Ahmed Refik, Onuncu Asr-ı Hicride Istanbul, p. 94.

81 Ahmed Refik, Hicri Onbirinci Asırda Istanbul Hayatı, Istanbul 1931, p. 13, 19.

82 Fernand Braudel pointed to Istanbul’s importance for the history of the Mediterranean: Akdeniz ve Akdeniz Dünyası, trans. Mehmet Ali Kılıçbay, Istanbul 1989, v. 1, p. 59-61, also see et seq. and Robert Mantran, XVI. ve XVII. Yüzyılda Istanbul’da Gündelik Hayat, trans. Mehmet Ali Kılıçbay, Istanbul 1991, p. 8-12.

83 Cornell H. Fleischer, Tarihçi Mustafa Âlî: Bir Osmanlı Aydını ve Bürokratı, trans. Ayla Ortaç, Istanbul 1996, p. 138-147.

84 Nurhan Atasoy, 1582 Surnâme-i Hümayun, Düğün Kitabı, Istanbul 1997.

85 Bekir Kütükoğlu, Osmanlı İran Siyasi Münasebetleri (1578-1612), Istanbul 1993.

86 Selânikî, Târih, v. 1, p. 209-212.

87 Selânikî, Târih, c. 2, s. 609-613.

88 Translator’s note: The Turkish word “Akdeniz,” literally translated as “the White Sea,” refers to the Mediterranean.

89 Tâcü’t-tevârîh, Istanbul 1279, c. 1, s. 429-431.

90 Feridun M. Emecen, “Mehmed III”, DİA, XXVIII, 411; for an overview please also see: Feridun M. Emecen, “Osmanlı Hanedanına Alternatif Arayışlar Üzerine Bazı Örnekler ve Mülahazalar”, İslâm Araştırmaları Dergisi, 2001, issue 6, p. 63-76.

91 Mehmed Suud’s Tarih-i Hind-i Garbi’si (Istanbul 1987); Feridun Bey’s translation Tevârîh-i Pâdişahân-ı Françe (J. L. Bacque-Grammont, Paris 1997); Asian Khanates of Seyfi Çelebi (L’ouvrage de Seyfi Çelebi: historien Ottoman du XVIe siecle, Joseph Matuz, Paris 1968); and Tercüman Mahmud’s Târîh-i Üngürüs (Die Geschichte der Ungarn in einer osmanischen Chronik des 16 Jahrhunderts: Tercuman Mahmuds Târih-i Ungurus, prepared by György Hazai, Berlin 2008) are products of this period.

92 Menâzirü’l-avâlim, v. 3, p. 1058.

93 Menâzirü’l-avâlim, v. 3, p. 1075-1076.

94 Menâzirü’l-avâlim, v. 3, p. 1077.

95 Menâzirü’l-avâlim, v. 3, p. 1091-1096.

96 For a general social and economic analysis, please see: Robert Mantran, 17. Yüzyılın İkinci Yarısında Istanbul, trans. Mehmet Ali Kılıçbay and Enver Özcan, v. II, Ankara 1986.

97 I. Ahmed’s imam, Safi, wrote the chronicle of his reign: Mustafa Sâfî’nin Zübdetü’t-Tevârih’i, ed. İbrahim Hakkı Çuhadar, II v., Ankara 2003.

98 Mustafa Sâfî’nin Zübdetü’t-Tevârih’i, v. 1, p. 46-54.

99 Mustafa Sâfî’nin Zübdetü’t-Tevârih’i, v. 1, p. 173 et seq.

100 Mustafa Sâfî’nin Zübdetü’t-Tevârih’i, v. 2, p. 207-230.

101 Feridun Emecen, “Mustafa I”, DİA, XXXI, 272-275.

102 Feridun M. Emecen, “Osman I”, DİA, XXXIII, 453-456.

103 Naîmâ, Târih, prepared by Mehmet İpşirli, Ankara 2007, v. 2, p. 459.

104 Baki Tezcan, “The 1622 Military Rebellion in Istanbul: A Historiographical Journey”, IJMES, 2002, v. 8, i. 1-2, p. 131-142.

105 For this period, please see: Cavid Baysun, “Murad IV”, İA, VIII, 625-647.

106 Feridun M. Emecen, “İbrahim”, DİA, XXI, 274-281.

107 Naîmâ, Târih, v. 3, p. 1077-1079; IV, 1691, 1709.

108 Naîmâ, Târih, v. 3, p. 1189-1195.

109 Naîmâ, Târih, v. 3, p. 1209, 1221-1232; Abdurrahman Abdi Paşa Vekayinâmesi, prepared by Fahri Çetin Derin, Istanbul 2008, p. 20-22.

110 Kâtib Çelebi, Fezleke, Istanbul 1284, v. 2, p. 373-375.

111 For the incident, please see: Karaçelebizâde Abdülaziz Efendi, Ravzatü’l-ebrâr Zeyli, haz. Nevzat Kaya, Ankara 2003, p. 70-98; Kâtib Çelebi, Fezleke, v.2, p.379. Vecîhî, Târih, haz. Ziya Akkaya, doktora tezi, AÜ DTCF, 1957, p. 109.

112 Hrand D. Andreasyan and Fahri Ç. Derin, “Çınar Vak’ası: Eremya Çelebi Kömürcüyan’a Göre”, Istanbul Enstitüsü Dergisi, 1957, issue 3, p. 57-83; Abdurrahman Abdi Paşa Vekayinâmesi, p. 87-88.

113 Naîmâ, Târih, v. 4, p. 1684.

114 Vecîhî, Târih, p. 233-234.

115 Semiramis Çavuşoğlu, “Kadızadeliler”, DİA, XXIV, 100-102; Madeline C. Zilfi, Dindarlık Siyaseti: Osmanlı Uleması: Klasik Dönem Sonrası 1600-1800, çev. Mehmet Faruk Özçınar, Ankara 2008, p. 129-189.

116 Târih-i Kostantiniye ve Kayasıre, prepared by İbrahim Solak, Konya 2009. In this edition of the work, there are serious reading errors caused by a lack of attention. The original version of the text at the end of this work compensates for this problem. The original book is a compilation of Byzantine histories called Historia Rerum in Oriente Gestarum (Frankfurt 1587).

117 Mehmed Halîfe, “Târîh-i Gılmânî”, ed. Ertuğrul Oral, Ph.D. Dissertation, Marmara Üniversitesi, 2000, p. 77-78.

118 Please see Feridun M. Emecen, “Evliya Çelebi ve İstanbul”, Evliya Çelebi Atlası, ed. Coşkun Yılmaz, Istanbul 2012, p. 64-73.

119 Silâhdar Fındıklılı Mehmed, Târih, Istanbul 1928, v. 2, p. 274-298; Cavid Baysun, “Mehmed IV”, İA, VII, 554-555.

120 Silâhdar, Târih, v. 2, p. 549.

121 Silâhdar, Târih, v. 2, p. 701.

122 Mithat Sertoğlu, “İstanbul”, İA, V/2, s. 1214/17.

123 Naîmâ, Târih, c. 3, p. 1153.

124 1730 Patrona İhtilali Hakkında Bir Eser: Abdi Tarihi, prepared by Faik Reşit Unat, Ankara 1943, p. 35: ‘’...“Even the Friday prayer was not performed that day, and they did not allow for reciting the azan...’’.”

125 Rifa’at Ali Abou-el-Haj, The 1703 Rebellion and the Structure of Ottoman Politics, Istanbul 1984; and Abdülkadir Özcan, “Edirne Vak‘ası”, DİA, X, 445-446.

126 Râşid, Târih, Istanbul 1282, v. 5, p. 18-20.

127 Tournefort Seyahatnamesi, tr. Teoman Tunçdoğan, Istanbul 2005, II. Kitap, pp. 11-20.

128 Josephus Grelot, İstanbul Seyahatnâmesi, tr. Maide Selen, Istanbul 1998, pp. 58-59.

129 Ahmed Refik’s name for this period, Lale Devri (the Tulip Era), was widely adopted later: Lale Devri, Istanbul 1932. This does not date back to the abovementioned era.

130 Küçük Çelebizâde Âsım, Târih, Istanbul 1282, p. 269-272.

131 Râşid, Târih, v. 5, p. 160.

132 Münir A,ktepe, Patrona İsyanı, Istanbul 1958, p. 45-60.

133 Tarihi Hatırat. İstanbul’da Fransız Elçisi Marki de Bonnac’ın İstanbul’daki Fransa Elçiliği Üzerine Tarihi Hatıratı, trans. A. Ş. Bizer, ed. Mustafa Daş (special thanks to M. Daş for his assistance to me in disposing of this work to be published in Türk Tarih Kurumu).

134 Müri’t-tevârîh, nşr. Münir Aktepe, Istanbul 1976, v. 1, p. 3-8.

135 Selim Karahasanoğlu, Kadı ve Günlüğü: Sadreddinzâde Telhisî Mustafa Efendi Günlüğü (1711-1735) Üstüne Bir İnceleme, Istanbul 2013, s. 103-104.

136 Aktepe, Patrona İsyanı, p. 131-182

137 Subhî Tarihi, Sâmî ve Şâkir Tarihleri ile Birlikte, haz. Mesut Aydıner, Istanbul 2007, p. 38.

138 Abdi Tarihi, s. 45.

139 Ahmet Refik, Onüçüncü Asr-ı Hicride İstanbul Hayatı, Istanbul 1988, p. 21, 35.

140 Ambraseys-Finkel, Sismik Etkinlikler, p. 132-140.

141 Şem‘dânîzâde, Müri’t-tevârih, v. 2/A, p. 86-87.

142 For an overview of this war period, please see: Ruznâme: Osmanlı-Rus Harbi Esnasında Bir Şahidin Kaleminden İstanbul, 1769-1774, prepared by Süleyman Göksu, Istanbul 2007; please see Virginia Aksan, Kuşatılmış Bir İmparatorluk: Osmanlı Harpleri, 1700-1870, trans. Gül Çağalı Güven, Istanbul 2010, p. 133-184.

143 Regarding the fire of 1782, please see: Derviş Efendizâde Mustafa Efendi, 1782 Yılı Yangınları: Harîk Risâlesi 1191, ed. Hüsamettin Aksu, Istanbul 1994.

144 Derviş Mustafa, Harîk Risâlesi, p. 19-20.

145 Taylesanizâde Hafız Abdullah Efendi Tarihi: İstanbul Uzun Dört Yılı (1785-1789), prepared by Feridun M. Emecen, Istanbul 2003.

146 Kemal Beydilli, “Selim III”, DİA, XXXVI, 420-424.

147 Victor Ostapchuk, “The Human Landscape of the Ottoman Black Sea in the Face of the Cossack Naval Raids”, OM, 2001, v. 20, p. 64.

148 Johann Wilhelm Zinkeisen, Osmanlı İmparatorluğu Tarihi, trans. Nilüfer Epçeli, edited by Kemal Beydilli, Istanbul 2011, v. 4, p. 343.

149 [Ahmed Vâsıf Efendi], Koca Sekbanbaşı Risalesi, prepared by Abdullah Uçman, Istanbul, ts. (Tercüman Gazetesi), p. 37-40.

150 Saray Günlüğü, 25 Aralık 1802-24 Ocak 1809, prepared by Mehmet Ali Beyhan, Istanbul 2007, p. 205 vd.; Kemal Beydilli, “Mustafa IV”, DİA, XXXI, 283-285.

151 Saray Günlüğü, p. 231-253; İ. Hakkı Uzunçarşılı, Meşhur Rumeli Ayanlarından Tirsinikli İsmail, Yılıkoğlu Süleyman Ağalar ve Alemdar Mustafa Paşa, Istanbul 1942.

152 Âsım, Târih, v. 2, p. 252-260.

153 Translator’s note: The Sekban are referred to as “mercaneries of peasant background” and described within the framework of military units.

(Halil İnalcık; Donald Quataert (1997-04-28). An Economic and Social History of the Ottoman Empire. Cambridge University Press. p. 419. Retrieved 2014-05-02;

Sam White (2011-08-15). The Climate of Rebellion in the Early Modern Ottoman Empire. Cambridge University Press. p. 170. ISBN 978-1-139-49949-1. Retrieved 2014-05-02).

154 Şânîzâde Mehmed Ataullah Efendi, Şânîzâde Tarihi, haz. Ziya Yılmazer, Istanbul 2008, c. 1, s. 234-237.

155 Şânîzâde, Târih, v. 1, p. 540-543.

156 Şânîzâde, Târih, v. 2, p. 1139-1140. The edict issued for the prohibition of this is registered in v. 2, p. 1143.

157 For developments in this period and related literature, please see: Kemal Beydilli, “Mahmud II”, DİA, XXVII, 352-357. In addition: Abdülkadir Özcan, “II. Mahmud ve Reformları Hakkında Bazı Gözlemler”, TİD, 1995, issue 10, p. 13-39.

This article was translated from Turkish version of History of Istanbul with some editions to be published in a digitalized form in 2019.